Buried “escape” clause in AZ law means jail time for pet

Did you know that if you submit a repair request to your landlord in Arizona, that suffices as “notice to enter?”

Per the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, if the tenant requests a repair or service, that constitutes permission to enter. Period. The tenant unknowingly waives his right to receive notice.

This means the landlord can help himself into your apartment or rental house, any hour (within reason), any day, any month to handle. Without a head’s up to you. Yes, really.

This also means your pet can escape the minute Maintenance opens your door, if Maintenance ignored your appointment request and showed up while you’re not home. 

Because this is exactly what happened at Enclave Apartments in Tempe, Arizona. Maintenance did not show up at their scheduled time to change light bulbs when the tenant was home. With no notice, they made a surprise visit a day later when the tenant was not home.  The maintenance worker let himself in, and, inadvertently, let the tenant’s dog out.

Just ask Taco, who was later found alive in the middle of a busy highway, but ultimately landed himself in jail at the Humane Society. He did what any anxious, high maintenance dog would do when strangers invaded his territory.  He escaped!  Right through the open door, thank you maintenance crew. The good news is Taco got picked up. The bad news is:

– The maintenance worker did not alert the tenant or anyone that he had let the tenant’s dog escape.

 – Taco’s 26-year-old owner f-r-e-a-k-e-d when she came home during lunch and couldn’t find her little dog (no note was left.)

 – Taco bit the good Samaritan who tried to rescue him out of heavy traffic. 

 – And Taco now has a record because he (gently) bit the good Samaritan.

A sincere thanks to the Humane Society who saved Taco, held him at their facility, verified his rabies and license records, then tracked down his owner a couple hours later. And another big thanks to Humane Society for helping fill in the blanks to what happened.  

 Arizona Department of Housing needs to come up with better laws that     require maintenance workers to give notice EACH time they need to enter a tenant’s home.  Better laws like this would do a better job protecting the right to privacy and safety for AZ tenants and their pets.

Escape Artist

You have to dig deep to find this clause in the 47-page Arizona Residential Landlord Tenant Act. It is buried.

B. If the tenant notifies the landlord of a service request or a request for maintenance as prescribed in section 33-1341, paragraph 8, the notice from the tenant constitutes permission from the tenant for the landlord to enter the dwelling unit pursuant to subsection D of this section for the sole purpose of acting on the service or maintenance request and the tenant waives receipt of any separate or additional access notice that may be required pursuant to subsection D of this section."

The solution and problems with the law

A landlord should be required to give 48 hours notice of a specific date to enter, whether they generate the request to inspect or repair, or the tenant generates the request for a repair.

Current "notice to enter" AZ laws

1. Current law states that a landlord must give 48 hours notice to enter, but the law fails to require that landlords state a specific date.

2. That’s not the only bad thing about the landlord/tenant act’s notice clause: Currently, a landlord does NOT have to give notice to enter to handle a service request, if the repair request was submitted by the tenant. Per the AZ Residential Landlord Tenant Act, the tenant’s request for repairs automatically infers notice, even though the tenant is not necessarily aware of this. (Best guess and a reasonable one: Most tenants have no clue about this obscure law.)

Tenant not told they waived their right to notice

In the handful of examples that we reviewed, the tenant was never told that they’d waived their right to notice during or after submitting a repair request. That doesn’t mean that some landlords do not inform tenants as a courtesy. (There likely are many customer service oriented landlords and property management companies who do provide notice to enter to conduct repairs.)

Obviously, one temporary band-aid solution is for the landlord to inform/remind the tenant that the tenant’s repair request waives his/her right to notice per law. This way the tenant can, at minimum, make arrangements. Like send their pet to a pet sitter while waiting for the landlord to handle the repairs. Or, in Taco’s case, make sure his harness is on him. Because that harness has his ID and rabies tags on it.

Disclaimer: Landlords typically provide the tenant a copy of the 47-page AZ Residential Landlord Tenant Act during move-in. But this law* is buried in the fine print.

Misleading offer to book appointment buries the law even more.

Typically, a tenant generates a repair request online or by email with the expectation the landlord will contact them to schedule or confirm the  appointment time. For example, BH Management Services, a property management company, provides an online app that tenants can use to pay rent or order repairs. The app provides the tenant an option to request an appointment for the repairs. However, the app does not inform the tenant that, per Arizona law, their repair request automatically constitutes permission for the landlord to enter. The app does not inform the tenant that the landlord can ignore the request for an appointment and just show up unannounced a week later.

So, even if you ask for an appointment, the landlord can ignore it,  show up when you’re not home, and inadvertently let your dog escape.

Arizona Department of Housing, it’s time to enact some more clearly-defined laws to better protect tenant rights to privacy and safety.

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