Updated on

Rent Withholding Laws in Arizona

Tenants in Arizona can legally withhold rent until the landlord makes major repairs—but they must notify them of the problem first.

In certain states, tenants are allowed to withhold some or all of their rent until their landlord makes major repairs—a tactic known, unsurprisingly, as “rent withholding.” In Arizona, rent withholding is legal1, and the law actually spells out precisely which situations it can be used for. That said, the actual process tenants must follow to withhold rent isn’t laid out as clearly as it is in some other states. (There are some good rules of thumb to follow, though.)

A tenant can only withhold rent under specific circumstances

Unlike a lot of other states, Arizona’s law specifically identifies the situations which can justify rent withholding. Landlords are required to supply utilities, running water, and reasonable amounts of hot water, heat and central air-conditioning, and other essential services for all rental properties.2 If they fail to do so for any reason, a tenant can withhold rent until the problem is fixed.

Although the law doesn’t specifically define “essential services,” at least one court has found that a broken toilet (even when there was another working bathroom in the apartment) qualified as a breach of the landlord’s obligation to provide essential services.3

That said, the right to withhold rent does not apply to conditions created by the tenant, a member of the tenant's family, or any people on the premises with the tenant's consent.4

Tenants must inform their landlord of the problem first

Under Arizona law, a tenant’s right to withhold rent doesn’t apply until they notify the landlord of the issue with their rental unit.5 The law doesn’t require a specific method of giving notice. However, it’s recommended that notice be given in writing via certified mail in case there are legal proceedings.

Arizona law isn’t clear about how long to wait before withholding rent

In most states where rent withholding is legal, the tenant must wait a specific amount of time after notifying their landlord before actually withholding rent. Arizona law, however, doesn’t mention a waiting period. Other parts of the law require that a tenant give a landlord five days’ notice if they intend to terminate a lease due to intolerable living conditions in the rental unit.6 So one could make an argument that five days would be a reasonable amount of time to wait for a repair to be made before starting to withhold rent.

Landlords could sue tenants for not paying rent

Tenants should be aware that withholding rent may lead a landlord to evict based on nonpayment of rent. If this happens, a tenant will have a chance to argue to a judge that the landlord has breached the lease.7 The judge may direct a tenant to pay rent to the court until the matter is resolved.8

Because rent withholding will likely result in legal proceedings, a tenant should always proceed carefully before withholding rental payments—and make sure to document the conditions in their rental throughout the process.

[1] A.R.S. § 33-1324

[2] A.R.S. § 33-1324

[3] Schaefer v. Murphey, 131 Ariz. 295 (1982)

[4] A.R.S. § 33-1364

[5] A.R.S. § 33-1364

[6] A.R.S. § 33-1361

[7] A.R.S. § 33-1365

[8] A.R.S. § 33-1365

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.