It is important for landlords to have their lease agreements signed by the proper individuals and to have all occupants in the rental unit listed. This article will cover some of the more important areas for you as landlords to be aware of in order to protect your rights and to enforce your lease if a violation should occur.
First, and mort importantly, a landlord should use a written lease that complies with the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (hereafter ARLTA). While verbal/oral agreements are binding and covered by the ARLTA, oftentimes it is difficult for a judge to decide lease break questions if it is simply the tenant’s word against the landlord’s. Judges prefer to decide cases on a written agreement, rather than ruling on a verbal agreement and listening to a “swearing contest” between the parties.
Secondly, it is important when using a written lease to list all occupants who are to reside in the rental unit and to have all adult occupants sign the agreement. There is one exception. If your lease is for a term of less than one year, only one spouse of a married couple needs to sign the lease to make it binding on the marital community. In Arizona, community property laws bind both husband and wife to a lease for a year or less if only one person signs it. Leases for more than a year must be signed by both husband and wife or the agreement is only binding on the party who signed the lease. What this means is that if only one spouse signs the agreement and there is a default, the landlord can only collect against the assets of the signing party. As most assets are community property, the landlord could not collect from anything the spouses owned together (i.e. wages, vehicles, personal property, et cetera).
It is not necessary to have minors sign the leases, but they should be listed as occupants. As stated above, all occupants should be listed. The advantage to listing all occupants is that the tenant could not move in anyone else without the landlord’s approval. If the tenant allowed someone who is not listed on the lease to reside in the rental premises, the landlord could then consider the tenant in non-compliance of the lease and serve a non-compliance notice under A.R.S. § 13-3368(A) of the ARLTA to remove the unauthorized person. Failure to do so by the tenant would be grounds to evict the tenant. The tenant would still be responsible on the lease until its term ended or a new renter was found and a new lease entered into.
A.R.S. § 33-1310(16) and (17) defines tenant and term of the lease as follows:
1. “Tenant” means a person entitled under a rental agreement to occupy a dwelling unit to the exclusion of others.
2. “Term of Lease” means the initial terms of any renewal or extension of the written agreement currently in the effect not including any wrongful holdover period.
In a roommate situation, only the roommates who signed the lease would be held responsible for its full term. Those roommates who did not sign the lease would be considered month to month tenants and could move by simply giving thirty (30) days notice as required by A.R.S. § 33-1375.
Finally, if you require co-signers to guarantee payment under the lease, it is advisable that you have both the husband and wife sign if a married couple is to be your co-signer. The courts will accept faxed copies of leases or co-signer agreements. If dealing with out of state co-signers, a faxed copy would be considered binding. However, if possible, you should obtain the agreement with original signatures.
With multiple residents you normally get multiple vehicles. It is proper for a landlord to limit the number of vehicles that can be parked on the rental premises as long as the restriction is reasonable. This would depend on the parking space available at the rental premises.
Conversely, the landlord should require all vehicles to be listed on either the application or the lease agreement. This lease should also have a provision requiring the vehicles to be properly licensed, insured, and operable. It should also state under what grounds the landlord could tow a vehicle which is either in violation of the lease or not authorized to be parked on the premises.
As with any legal document, it is advised that you have it reviewed to make sure it complies with state law. If the landlord includes a provision prohibited by state law in the rental agreement, this provision is unenforceable. However, if the landlord deliberately uses a lease that contains provisions known to be prohibited, the tenant may sue and recover actual damages or two (2) months rent, whichever is greater.
By Andrew Hull, Esq., The Law Office of Andrew M. Hull
Andy M. Hull is the principal of the Law Office of Andrew M. Hull. He can be reached at 602.230.0088.
The views expressed here are generalized advice or information. Fact-specific questions should always be referred to legal counsel. Statements and opinions expressed in these legal columns are solely those of the author or authors. This advice does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Arizona Multihousing Association.