Owning rental property in Arizona can be a profitable endeavor for many owners. The winter and spring tourism and influx of residents from other states all contribute to the growth of the state’s economy, including its real estate market. Many prospective landlords, however, are unprepared for dealing with the maintenance and repair issues that come with rental properties.
Arizona law requires landlords to keep the premises in “fit and habitable” condition throughout the length of the lease agreement, including making necessary repairs. Because this is a legal obligation, it is wise to be prepared for said repairs and maintenance. Here are some tips for facing the inevitable.
Tip #1: Respond to maintenance requests in a timely manner
Due to state law, it’s important to address any maintenance issues as soon as possible so rental properties will remain “fit and habitable” and in good repair. (It is also a practice that will establish a more pleasant working relationship between landlords and tenants.) A.R.S 33-1324 details more specific requirements of landlords, such as complying with building codes and ensuring access to reasonable utilities.
There are cases in which the tenant may be responsible for making repairs, which must be described in the lease agreement. The landlord should not use clauses that place responsibility on the tenant for the purpose of avoiding maintenance and repairs, however.
Tip #2: Establish clear procedures
Keeping a rental property in good repair doesn’t happen without communication. Especially because, in general, landlords cannot “drop by” a rental property without providing reasonable notice, they may not know about issues until contacted.
Have a clear process for tenants to report maintenance issues, including providing a phone number and email address for maintenance requests, and establish a timeline for addressing issues. This will ensure the landlord is compliant with state law, while the tenant is provided residential space that is fully functional.
Tip #3: Keep accurate records
The “paper trail” is one of the most essential pieces of issue resolution because it proves action was taken, and it sets up a process for any future issues. Therefore, it’s prudent to keep detailed records of all maintenance and repair requests, including the date, time, and description of the issue, as well as any actions taken to resolve the problem. As mentioned, having a set procedure for issue resolution can also improve efficiency for any repairs that come up during the remainder of the lease time frame.
For property owners, this is especially crucial because failure to act within 10 days of a written request for repairs (per A.R.S. §33-1363) may trigger the self-help repair statute, where the tenant deducts the cost of repair from their rent payment.
Tip #4: Use licensed and insured contractors
Freelance worker marketplaces and word-of-mouth recommendations may help property owners save money on maintenance and repairs, but there is no guarantee these individuals have licenses and insurance. Any injuries or errors during jobs with these individuals can prove to be nightmare scenarios, especially because tenants must be considered.
When hiring contractors to perform maintenance or repair work, ensure they are licensed and insured in the state of Arizona. This can help protect you if anything goes wrong.
Tip #5: Communicate with tenants
Conducting maintenance and repairs is a process, especially when they involve complex systems like electrical or plumbing. Tenants deserve to be informed of the status of their maintenance and repair requests before they’re addressed and during the operations. That way, they can plan accordingly or even temporarily vacate the premises if they determine it’s for the best.
Keep them in the loop and let them know if there will be any disruptions to their daily routine while work is being done.
Tip #6: Stay organized
Along with creating records of maintenance and repairs, property owners are advised to keep track of maintenance and repair expenses. Rental property cash flow is a major benefit for owners and is a separate conversation, but budgeting for these expenses will ensure you can always fulfill requests in a timely manner. Be sure to set money aside for future issues — even the best-kept properties are subject to harsh weather and other factors that cause wear and tear.
Consult with an Experienced Real Estate Attorney
By following these tips, landlords can help ensure their properties are well-maintained and in compliance with Arizona law, while also fostering positive relationships with their tenants. Investors should partner with an experienced real estate attorney who is familiar with landlord/tenant laws and how they can impact their investments. Gottlieb Law provides industry-leading legal representation for anyone involved in Arizona commercial real estate. Contact our firm today at 602-899-8188 or schedule an initial consultation on our contact us page.