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LANDLORD’S ACCESS TO YOUR PROPERTY

By Andy Hull, Attorney at Law (2004) (reprinted with permission of author)

WARNING LAWS CHANGE AND YOUR SITUATION MAY NOT FIT THE ANSWERS IN THIS POST

Landlords should routinely inspect and monitor the condition of their rental property during a tenant’s lease. Failure to do so could result in the landlord finding the rental premises in a damaged condition above and beyond any refundable security deposits being held pursuant to the rental contract. The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (ARLTA) addresses this issue, and landlords would be well advised to take advantage of it.When renting, the landlord always should conduct a walk-through inspection with the resident both before leasing the unit and after the lease expires.

All leases signed after January 1, 1997 require the resident to complete a walk-through report and be present at the move-out inspection. This is true whether the renter is first occupying the premises or entering into a lease renewal of an existing rental agreement.

A move-in inspection documents the condition of the rental unit so that the new resident isn’t charged for existing damage. The procedure also enables the landlord to charge the renter for any new damage caused during his or her occupancy of the premises, less any normal wear and tear.

Ideally the landlord should participate in both the move-in and move-out inspection with the resident so both parties can agree on the condition of the property. Always have the resident sign and date the inspection form.

Once the lease is finalized and the tenant has moved in, the landlord should periodically enter and inspect the premises to check for such things as property damage, unauthorized occupants or pets, or alterations done without the landlord’s consent. The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act allows access under A.R.S. § 33-1343 and states in part:

A.R.S. § 33-1343. Access
A. The tenant shall not unreasonable withhold consent to the landlord to enter into the dwelling unit in order to inspect the premises, make necessary or agreed repairs, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchases, tenants, workmen or contractors.
B. The landlord may enter the dwelling unit without consent of the tenant in case of emergency.
C. The landlord shall not abuse the right to access or use it to harass the tenant. Except in case of emergency or if it is impractical to do so, the landlord shall give the tenant at least two days’ notice of his intent to enter and enter only a reasonable times.”

So long as the landlord is not abusing its right of entry and is entering for a legitimate purpose, such as listed above, the tenant cannot refuse entry. The landlord must, under normal circumstances, give prior notice. The landlord should take a witness along as well as a camera to photograph any damages or lease violations found. The witness can further substantiate the interior conditions as well as testify that the landlord did not cause any damage or theft of the tenant’s possessions. What is an abuse of access is always subjective but inspections every few months would be reasonable. The resident should be also told in the access notice that failure to allow entry could be grounds to terminate their lease and evict them or get a court order allowing entry.

If the renter does not request to be present at the move-out, the landlord has no obligation to advise the resident of the inspection date and time. Additionally, the person has no right to schedule the walk-through at his or her convenience.

If the resident is present during the inspection, request that he or she sign and date the move-out form. If the person refuses, simply note that, “The tenant was present and refused to sign this form.”

The resident is not responsible for normal wear and tear to the rental unit at move-out. Unfortunately, there is no clear definition or standard as to what is “normal wear and tear”.

It is subjective and based on such factors as: the age and condition of the property at move-in; the length of time the resident lived in the unit; and the number of occupants, including pets.

If the landlord finds damages beyond normal wear and tear, take the following steps:
Document and date the damage with photographs or videotape. The evidence can be decisive if the matter goes to court. Have several witnesses who can attest to the condition of the rental unit before the resident moved in and after the person vacated the premises.