What to do about an eviction notice regarding a dog attack?

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What to do about an eviction notice regarding a dog attack?

I live in an apartment and was walking my son’s beagle and dauschund on a lease when another tenant’s dog attacked my beagle. My son contacted the leasing office and they told him that would be no problem and that they would work with him. Now I found a notice in my door that says that they are filing a law suit against us for forcible detainer 5-day notice. What can we do?

Asked on April 6, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You should be able to defend against their attempt to evict you. A tenant may generally only be evicted for the following reasons:

1) Nonpayment of rent;

2) Violation of the lease, after notice to quit and a chance to cure (or correct) the problem;

3) Violating other tenants' right to "peaceful enjoyment" of the premises (harassing them, disturbing the peace, etc.), again, after notice and a chance to stop doing the behavior;

4) Threatening, assulting, or stealing from the landlord;

5) Grossly negligently (recklessly, or with no consideration for the consequences) or intentionally damaging the landlord's premises;

6) For criminal activity, if the lease provides such.

A dog attack would be either 2) or 3) above (it would be #2 only if the lease addressed pets, animal attacks, etc. in some way, and the attack or your possession of the dogs violated the lease terms); however, both of those grounds to evict, even if  your dog instigated the attack or even if you violated the lease in some way, require that you first be provided notice of the issue and a chance to correct it before eviction; you could only be evicted if, after notice, you failed to correct the problem and it re-occured. From what you write, it appears that the landlord cannot simply initiate a lawsuit, whether eviction or forcible detainer, to make you leave.

If possible, get an attorney to help you--the lawyer will know the legal process. If you can't afford an attorney, try Legal Services--they provide free legal assistance to those who cannnot afford a lawyer. If you can't get an attorney, make sure you show up to court and you should be able to defend yourself.


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