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The Evolution of Tenant Rights in Phoenix: What Landlords Need to Know

Dora Pinter

The Evolution of Tenant Rights in Phoenix: What Landlords Need to Know - Article Banner

The rental market and the real estate landscape in Phoenix have experienced a significant transformation over the last few years. Our population has exploded, leading to more demand for rental housing, higher rental prices, and a market that just seems to keep growing. 

That’s good news for real estate investors and rental property owners. 

The change has also been helpful to tenants, who have far more protections and rights now than they did decades ago. Arizona is still considered a landlord-friendly state. There’s no rent control, and we don’t have the strict local and state laws that other markets on the West Coast need to manage (we’re looking at you, California and Oregon). 

However, tenant rights have evolved pretty considerably, even here, and you have to be careful with what you do and what you don’t do during the leasing and management process. You have to keep up with maintenance. 

Understanding these changes and staying up to date with the laws and best practices is not just crucial for staying compliant, but also for maintaining positive relationships with your tenants and ensuring a profitable investment experience

We know that the legal landscape can be confusing and overwhelming, especially when we’re talking about the topic of tenant rights. From emotional support animals to detailed documentation, we’re here to provide information and resources on managing a property without worrying about potential legal pitfalls. 

Landlord and Tenant Relationships in Phoenix 

For landlords in Phoenix, these shifts in tenant rights signify more than just legal adjustments and the growing awareness of their responsibilities; they also represent an evolving dynamic in the landlord-tenant relationship. Unless you’re partnering with a Phoenix property management company, you’re dealing with your tenants every day. You need to lead the relationship down a productive, professional, and mutually respectful path.

Being well-informed about these changes is a fundamental part of risk management in rental property investment. Landlords who stay up to date on tenant rights and adapt accordingly can avoid costly legal disputes, foster a constructive and trusting relationship with tenants, and ultimately ensure a more stable and profitable investment. Neglecting these changes, on the other hand, could lead to financial penalties, loss of tenants, and a tarnished reputation in the local housing market.

A Brief History of Tenant Rights in Phoenix

Let’s take a look at where the concept of tenant rights even came from. Tenant rights in Phoenix, much like those across the United States, have progressed from being virtually non-existent in the early part of the 20th century to a framework that has grown to provide significant protection and empowerment to renters. 

Decades ago, you rented a property to a tenant and there was very little state or federal intervention. However, the latter half of the 20th century saw a shift toward the protection of tenants through legislation. These were the decades not only of tenant rights but of civil rights and women’s rights, consumer rights and worker rights. 

The introduction of fair housing laws in the 1960s was a landmark step in protecting tenants from discrimination. 

Since then, both federal and Arizona state laws have evolved to address security deposits, lease terminations, habitability standards, and more.

Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

Recent legislative changes have further empowered tenants, particularly through enhancements in habitability standards and eviction processes. Arizona’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, for instance, stipulates that landlords must maintain rental properties in a fit and habitable condition, ensuring compliance with all health and building codes. This includes: 

  • Providing running water

  • Providing heat

  • Allowing for essential services in the rental home

Furthermore, the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act outlines specific procedures for eviction, requiring landlords to provide proper notice and the opportunity for tenants to rectify lease violations before landlords can proceed with eviction actions.

These developments reflect a broader trend toward balancing the power dynamics between landlords and tenants, emphasizing transparency, fairness, and respect for tenants' rights. It is imperative for landlords in Phoenix to understand these laws fully and implement practices that comply with them. 

Being informed not only protects you from potential litigation but also contributes to a positive, professional relationship with your tenants. 

While these legislative changes aim to forge a fairer and more equitable landlord-tenant environment, they inevitably introduce several challenges for landlords. Keeping up with the shifting legal landscape requires a significant investment of time and resources. Landlords must regularly educate themselves on the latest laws and regulations to ensure they are not inadvertently violating tenants' rights. 

Additionally, the increased protections for tenants can sometimes lead to a prolonged eviction process, making it more difficult for landlords to remove problematic tenants promptly. This can result in financial strains, particularly if the tenant stops paying rent during the eviction process. Many landlords complain that the emphasis on maintaining properties to a higher habitability standard also places an additional financial burden on them, requiring a larger investment in property maintenance and upgrades. 

Navigating these challenges requires a proactive approach, including ongoing education, meticulous property management, and effective communication strategies with tenants.

Recent Changes and What They Mean

As we’ve mentioned, the idea of tenant rights started, really, with the fair housing laws. Since then, there have been a lot of laws, ordinances, regulations, and requirements put into place to ensure that landlords are not taking advantage of their tenants. 

Here are some of the most important tenant rights issues that landlords in Phoenix need to deal with on a near-daily basis. 

  • Security Deposits and Fees

Recent updates to legislation in Phoenix have provided clear guidelines on security deposits. Landlords are required to provide their departing tenants with detailed itemizations of any deductions that are made from the security deposit. You must return the balance within 14 days after a tenant moves out. Your tenant has a right to know what the security deposit was spent on, and you must be ready to provide documentation and backup. 

  • Lease Terminations and Evictions

Another significant area of recent legislative changes pertains to lease terminations and the eviction process, which has become more formalized, ensuring tenants receive proper notice and the opportunity to cure certain breaches to avoid eviction. It's critical for landlords to follow the letter of the law or risk having their cases dismissed in court.

This change not only protects tenants but also encourages clear communication and resolution efforts between landlords and tenants, aiming to minimize unnecessary legal actions. Additionally, these laws place a strong emphasis on the reasons for eviction, prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants in retaliation for legitimate complaints about the habitability of the property or other legal rights exercised by the tenant. Understanding and respecting these procedures is vital for landlords to manage their properties legally and ethically.

If you have a tenant who isn’t paying rent, you want to get them out as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible. 

  • Timely Maintenance and Repairs

The responsibility of landlords to maintain safe and habitable living conditions has been firmly established. Tenants have the right to withhold rent or potentially terminate the lease if landlords fail to address essential repairs within a legally defined period after notice. Maricopa County allows tenants to hire a licensed contractor and submit a repair bill to the landlord if the landlord does not fix a reported maintenance problem within ten days of receiving the notice. 

  • Rent Increases

Phoenix does not currently have rent control laws in place, and it would be hard to enact them because state laws would take precedence over local regulations, and the state of Arizona does not have rent control policies in place. However, tenants still have rights when it comes to rental increases. Depending on how your lease is written, you’ll need to provide 30 or 60 days of notice before you raise your tenant’s rent.  

Fair Housing Laws Continue to Evolve

We mentioned that the entire tenant rights movement really started with fair housing laws. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from discrimination based on: 

  • Race

  • Color

  • National origin

  • Religion

  • Disability

  • Sex 

  • Familial status

In Phoenix, those protected classes include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Landlords in Phoenix today must be aware of the laws around service animals and companion animals or emotional support animals. These are not considered pets; you cannot charge pet rent or ask for a pet fee. Those animals are legally viewed as accommodations, and tenants with disabilities have a right to accommodations. 

Tenant rights in Phoenix have come a long way, and they continue to evolve. 

For landlords, knowledge is power. And, staying informed is the best strategy for protecting your investment and fostering a healthy tenant-landlord relationship. 

Follow all legal updates, engage with the landlord community, and prioritize transparency with your tenants. By doing so, you can adapt to the changing landscape and remain a fair and successful landlord in Phoenix.

Contact Property Management CompanyThe best way to protect yourself and your property is by working with an experienced Phoenix property management company. Contact us at Service Star Realty, and we’ll talk about some of the ways that we keep our landlords and real estate investors in compliance with all local, state, and federal housing laws.

Service Star Realty

2929 East Camelback Road #119, Phoenix, AZ 85016

(480) 426-9696

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