What are my rights if I believe that my landlord is evicting me in retaliation for requesting necessary repairs?

My water heater was malfunctioning and was running 24 hours a day. I went without water for 2 days, and did not have hot water for 7. In a small studio apartment my electric bill was $300 in just 1 month. They refused initially to reimburse me the electric and due to the additional costs incurred I suffered extreme mental anguish. I did not have the extra money and went without electric more than once. They are now claiming that my children are a reason they do not wish to honor my lease because of misbehavior. My oldest son was accomodated by the PD for reporting crimes against residents here. I never received 5 day notice and the landlord refused to accept my rent.

Asked on June 8, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

You can only be evicted by a court order (a judgment of possession, leading to a warrant or writ or removal). To be evicted, the landlord must comply with the law and procedure--such as by providing first a Notice to Cease if the alleged issue was your son misbehaving and disturbing other tenants--and if the landlord did not comply with the correct procedure and/or you can disprove, such as with testimony and evidence, his claims, you can avoid eviction.

Also, if you had issues affecting habitability of the premises--like lack of water or lack of hot water--you may be entitled to monetary compensation, just as you may be entitled for compensation for additional costs you incurred due to the landlord's failure to perform maintenance. And landlords may not retaliate against their tenants for requesting signficant or important repairs (such as to issues affecting habitability).

If you receive a summons to go to court for an eviction hearing, raise the landlord's failure to provide notice, any evidence that your son is not misbehaving, the maintenance/habitability issues, and any evidence that the landlord is retaliating against you; also come with the money to pay the rent. If you do this, you should have a good defense to eviction.

If the landord doesn't go to court but tries to lock you out himself, that is illegal; you should then go to court yourself seeking emergent (think "urgent" or "emergency") relief to be reinstated in your unit.

You should also consider suing the landlord, possibly in small claims court, to recover the extra bills you had due to his faulty maintenance and a pro rata rent abatement (retroactive reduction) for the time you lived without water or hot water.

You can do all this yourself, but you should have an attorney--especially to defend yourself from eviction. If you can't afford a lawyer, try contacting Legal Services--they provide legal help for people who can't afford lawyers. Good luck.


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