Eviction Defenses Available to Tenants in Arizona (via nolo.com)
Landlord Used "Self-Help" Procedures to Evict Tenant
Arizona state law ARS § 33-1367 prohibits a landlord from forcing a tenant out of the rental unit unlawfully. It is illegal for a landlord to change the locks on the rental unit or turn off the utilities in order to force a tenant to move out of the rental unit. These kinds of practices are called self-help evictions, and Arizona law specifically makes them illegal. If the landlord tries to evict the tenant through a self-help method, the landlord may end up owing the tenant monetary damages. See the Nolo article Illegal Eviction Procedures in Arizona for more information.
Landlord Did Not Evict the Tenant Using the Proper Procedures
Landlords must follow all of the procedures outlined in the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act when evicting a tenant in Arizona. If the landlord fails to do so, the tenant could have a valid defense against the eviction. For example, if the landlord does not properly serve the eviction notice to the tenant, then the appropriate time frame for the tenant to remedy the situation or move out will not begin running. The landlord would then have to give the notice to the tenant again, in the proper manner, before the five- or ten-day time frame would begin. The tenant can use evidence that the landlord did not follow proper procedures as a defense to the eviction.
If the landlord is justified in evicting the tenant, this defense will not stop the eviction proceedings entirely. It will merely delay the legal proceedings, giving the tenant more time to remain in the rental unit before being evicted.
Landlord Does Not Have Justification to Evict For Not Paying Rent
If the landlord is evicting the tenant for not paying rent, the tenant might have a few justifications, or legal grounds, with which to fight the eviction.
Landlord Did Not Make Necessary Repairs
The landlord has a responsibility to maintain the premises of the rental unit in a fit and habitable condition. This means that the landlord must comply with all applicable building codes, keep the common areas clean and safe, and maintain the electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, and air conditioning facilities within the rental unit. For a full list of the landlord's responsibilities, see ARS § 33-1324. Keep in mind that building codes are established by individual cities within Arizona. Mesa's city codes, Tucson's city codes, and Scottsdale's city codes are all available online. For other cities, contact the local city government for more information.
If the landlord does not maintain the premises, then the tenant can make the repairs and deduct the amount from the rent owed. Before making the repairs, the tenant must give the landlord a written notice specifying the needed repairs and give the landlord at least ten days to fix the repairs. If the landlord does not make the repairs within ten days, the tenant can hire a licensed contractor to make the repairs. The tenant is limited in the amount of money the tenant can deduct from the rent, either $300 or half the monthly rent, whichever is greater. For more information, see ARS § 33-1363 and the Nolo article Arizona Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent or "Repair and Deduct."
Tenant Is Being Evicted in Retaliation of Tenant's Legal Actions
It is illegal, under Arizona state law ARS § 33-1381, for a landlord to evict a tenant in retaliation for exercising any of the following legal actions:
1. The tenant has complained to a government agency about a building or health code violation.
2. The tenant has complained to the landlord about repairs the landlord must make under the law (see ARS § 33-1324 for the repairs a landlord must make).
3. The tenant has organized or joined a tenants' union.
4. The tenant has complained to the government agency in charge of enforcing the wage-price stabilization act.
Evicting a tenant within six months of performing any of these acts is called retaliation, and the tenant can use evidence of these actions as a defense against an eviction. For more information, see the Nolo article Arizona State Laws Prohibiting Landlord Retaliation.
Landlord Is Evicting Tenant Based on Discrimination
The federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant based on race, religion, gender, national origin, familial status (including children under the age of 18 and pregnant women), and disability. If a landlord evicts a tenant in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, then the tenant can use the discrimination as a defense against the eviction. See the Nolo article Housing Discrimination Prohibited by State and Local Law for more on laws prohibiting discrimination against tenants.