You’ve just found the perfect house to rent. The only thing left to do is sign the lease and provide a security deposit. Before you do, here’s what you need to know about renter deposit rights in Arizona.
This article is not intended to be legal advice. You can contact the Arizona Legal Center today to learn more about your rights in your situation. Note that when you first contact the Arizona Legal Center, a law student (and not a practicing attorney) will handle your intake.
What are the basics of Arizona renter deposit rights?
Both landlords and renters have rights when it comes to security deposits. There are two kinds of security deposit fees that may come with a rental agreement: refundable and nonrefundable.
As per Arizona security deposit laws (ARS § 33-1321), a landlord is allowed to collect a security deposit that offsets costs incurred by renters. Security deposits generally fall under the “refundable” category of fees that a landlord may charge.
A fee is nonrefundable only when it is specifically marked “nonrefundable” in your lease. Pet rent or pet deposits, for example, may be considered nonrefundable. Other types of nonrefundable fees may include:
- Fees for parking
- Redecorating as necessary (ARS § 33-1310(14))
- Last month’s rent (only if noted as nonrefundable and applied to the last month)
How much can a security deposit be?
The first step in knowing your renter deposit rights in Arizona is knowing how much a security deposit can be. In Arizona, landlords can only charge one and a half times the rental amount for a security deposit (ARS § 33-1321(A)).
For example, if your rent is $1,000 a month, your security deposit can be no more than $1,500. Some landlords will also ask for the last month’s rent, but this is not part of the security deposit.
How long does a landlord have to return a deposit?
Once you deliver written notice of your move-out date, the clock starts ticking. Your landlord generally has 14 business days to return your security deposit, along with an itemized list of deductions, after your termination of tenancy (ARS § 33-1321(D)).
Further, if your landlord schedules a walk-through of the property, your landlord generally must inform you in writing when that walk-through will occur so that you can be present if you wish (ARS § 33-1321(C)).
For some renters, this is a good opportunity to explain any damage that you feel should not be charged against your security deposit.
What expenses can a landlord take out of security deposit?
Renters are expected to take good care of the property they are renting. This generally includes:
- Being responsible for the behavior of guests
- Reasonably maintaining the rental in good repair
- Using appliances as expected
- Keeping the unit clean
If a renter’s actions lead to damage in a rental property, Arizona security deposit laws may allow a landlord to keep some or all of the paid security deposit.
These are the most common reasons a security deposit is withheld.
The most common deduction from your security deposit is unpaid rent.
If renters break their lease or leave any amount of rent unpaid, landlords are legally permitted to withhold that amount when they return the security deposit.
Regular wear-and-tear includes scuff marks on walls and normal wear on floors.
While most landlords expect to clean between tenants, there are times when cleaning fees may be taken from your security deposit. The terms defining normal “wear-and-tear” and what constitutes additional cleaning should be clearly stated in your lease.
Pet damage not covered by pet deposit
Pet deposits are often marked as nonrefundable deposits. Pets can cause considerable damage to both the inside and outside of a rental unit.
Anything not covered by a pet deposit may be deducted from the security deposit.
Removal of personal items
If you leave personal items behind, your landlord can deduct the cost of their removal from your security deposit.
If a landlord does take deductions from your security deposit, they are required by law (ARS § 33-1321(D)) to state in writing what the amounts they are deducting from the refund of the deposit and why.
Again, it is important to carefully read and understand your lease before you move in. This can protect you from potentially expensive surprises when you move out.
What can I do if a landlord hasn’t returned my deposit?
If your landlord has not returned your deposit within 14 business days following your terminating of tenancy and has not provided an itemized list of deductions from your refundable deposit, send a certified letter to your landlord requesting your security deposit.
If this doesn’t work, you may be able to pursue legal action in small claims court, though this can be a complex undertaking. Tenants may be able to recover the property and/or money due, along with damages up to twice the amount wrongfully withheld (ARS § 33-1321(E)).
Renters do have renter deposit rights in Arizona and plenty of resources to help you if a contentious issue arises.
The following organizations help renters specifically:
- Pima County: Rental Resources: Resources geared to Pima County specifically, including housing searches, Section 8 housing, legal services, and tenant/landlord rights and responsibilities information
- Southwest Fair Housing Council: Legal resources for tenants
- Arizona Tenants Advocates: Legal information related to tenant rights, organized by county and city
Sometimes it helps to speak to a person who understands renters’ rights and can explain the process to you. The Arizona Legal Center is a free legal clinic that can help you understand your renter deposit rights in Arizona. Get in touch today for a free consultation.
The Arizona Legal Center provides free legal aid and consultations in Arizona only. We provide low-cost access to fee-for-service cases when determined appropriate by an attorney at the Center, but generally do not undertake full-scope representation.