Breaking a Lease in Arizona

Breaking a Lease in Arizona

Last Updated: July 24, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

Find out when a tenant can legally break a lease in Arizona, when they can’t, and if a landlord is required by Arizona law to make reasonable effort to re-rent.

Before we address the legally acceptable reasons to get out a lease early without penalty, it’s important to know the notice requirements in Arizona to end a tenancy.

Lease Termination Notice Requirements in Arizona

In Arizona, a tenant is not required to provide notice for fixed end date leases, the lease expires on the last day of the lease. The remaining lease terms require written notice based on their length:

Delivering a Notice in Arizona

In the state of Arizona, tenants can deliver a notice by:

  • Giving it to the landlord in person; or
  • Mailing the notice via certified or registered mail.

The notice can be mailed to the last known address if a current address is unknown.

Conditions for Legally Breaking a Lease in Arizona

There are several scenarios where a tenant can legally break a lease in Arizona without penalty. We’ll go through each of them below.

Questions? To chat with an Arizona landlord tenant attorney, click here

1. Early Termination Clause

Some modern lease agreements may provide specific terms that would allow a tenant to terminate a lease early in exchange for a penalty fee. Read over the lease and look for language that outlines agreed-upon terms for ending the lease before the end of the fixed period, such as the amount of the fee (i.e., equal to 2 month’s rent) and the amount of notice required (i.e., 30 days).

If a lease agreement contains an early termination clause, before executing it and paying the penalty fee, read further to learn about other conditions that, if met, would not require a penalty fee to be paid.

2. Active Military Duty

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) helps protect active service members who are relocated due to deployment or permanent change of station. The protection begins on the date of entering duty and ends between 30-90 days after the date of discharge.

To break a lease in accordance with the relief act, a tenant must:

  • Prove the lease was signed before entering active duty.
  • Prove they will remain on active duty for at least the next 90 days.
  • Deliver a written notice to the landlord (example, page 2), accompanied by a copy of the orders to deploy / Permanent Change of Station (PCS) or a letter from their commanding officer stating their pending deployment.

With that said, the lease does not terminate immediately. Once the notice is delivered, the earliest the lease can terminate is 30 days after the beginning of the next rent period. For example, if the notice was delivered on the 23rd of March, and the rent is due on the 1st of each month, the earliest the lease can terminate is May 1st therefore, rent is still due for the month of April.

3. Unit is Uninhabitable

Most states have specific health and safety codes that provide minimum standards for rental units, and Arizona is no different. According to Arizona state law, landlords must maintain the rental unit so that it is fit and habitable (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 33-1324).

To learn more information on landlord responsibilities and habitability issues click here.

If minimum standards are not met, proper notice shall be given by the tenant and if the repairs are still not made within the allowable time period, a tenant would be considered “constructively evicted”. As a result, the obligations of the tenant under the lease are no longer required, given that the landlord has not met their own responsibilities under the Arizona landlord-tenant law.

4. Landlord Harassment or Privacy Violation

If the action is serious enough, harassment by a landlord or their violation of a tenant’s privacy may be enough justification for relieving a tenant of their obligations of the lease.

  • Landlord Entry. Arizona state law states that your landlord should provide two days’ notice before entry (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 33-1343(D)). If your landlord repeatedly violates your rights to privacy or does removes windows or doors, turns off your utilities, or changes the locks, you would be considered “constructively evicted,” as described above.
  • Changing the Locks. In Arizona, a landlord cannot lockout their tenant.

5. Domestic Violence

Arizona provides tenants who are victims of domestic violence with special rental provisions for their protection. 

Some protections the state of Arizona offers include:

  • Proof of Status. The landlord is entitled to verify the claim of Domestic Violence status. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 33-1318(A))
  • Termination of Lease. With proof of Domestic Violence status, a tenant is allowed to terminate the lease without penalty, if the tenant provides the landlord with a written notice requesting the release from the lease within 30 days. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 33-1318(A))
  • Locks. Landlords must change the locks if requested by a domestic violence victim, at the tenant’s expense. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 33-1318(E))

6. Other Reasons 

A tenant may have alternative reasons to terminate a lease early.  For example, the following reasons may legally permit a tenant to terminate the lease early, but are not always automatic and must be determined by a court:

  • Violation of the Lease Agreement. If a landlord violates the terms of the lease agreement, it may be enough justification to break the lease and relieve the tenant from their own obligations (i.e. illegally raising the rent during the fixed period).
  • Illegal or Unenforceable Contract. In some scenarios, a lease agreement may be deemed illegal and as a result, is generally not enforceable. (i.e. contracting with a minor)
  • Mandatory Disclosures. Many state and local laws require landlords to disclose documentation, policies, or specific unit information to tenants prior to moving in. Disclosure laws typically impose heavy fines or legal ramifications to landlords if they are not followed. In rare cases, they contain penalty provisions that may allow you to break your lease.
  • Senior Citizen or Health Issue. Some states offer age or health-related lease-breaking arrangements that permit early lease termination.  If a tenant has a qualified disability the tenant may request early termination as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The offender in the Domestic Violence situation may be liable to the landlord for all losses incurred due to early lease termination.

Questions? To chat with an Arizona landlord tenant attorney, click here

Examples of Insufficient Justification for Lease Breaking in Arizona

The below reasons are generally not enough justification (on their own) to release a tenant from the obligation of their lease term, and as a result, provide no legal protection against penalties for not honoring the lease.

  • They bought a house.
  • They are relocating for a new job or school.
  • They are upgrading or downgrading.
  • They are moving in with a partner.
  • They are moving to be closer to family.

Breaking a lease for any of the above reasons without court approval or in any conditions not previously outlined can have tangible consequences for tenants.  If a tenant would like to break a lease for any of these reasons, the tenant should ask the landlord to agree to a mutual termination.

Landlord’s Responsibility to Re-rent in Arizona

Arizona state law does require landlords to take reasonable steps to re-rent their unit when a tenant breaks their lease. This means that if you leave your lease early and your landlord re-rents the unit before your lease ends, then the rent received from the new tenant will apply to your debt.

According to Arizona Code § 33-1370, your landlord must make reasonable efforts to re-rent their unit instead of charging you for the total remaining rent due under the lease. If your landlord re-rents the property quickly, all you’ll be responsible for is the amount of time the unit was vacant.

Tenant’s Right to Sublet in Arizona

If your lease does not prohibit subletting, then you are in the clear to do so. However, your lease might contain a clause requiring you to obtain your landlord’s approval prior to subletting. To get landlord approval you will want to send them a letter through certified mail, with a return receipt requested, outlining the terms of the sublet lease agreement. Certified mail is the only proof of delivery that most courts will accept in case you need to prove that you notified your landlord.

The letter should include the following information:

  • Sublet term.
  • Name of proposed subtenant or assignee.
  • The permanent home address of proposed subtenant or assignee.
  • Your reason for subletting or leaving permanently.
  • Your new address during the sublease if applicable.
  • The written consent of any co‑tenant.
  • A copy of the proposed sublease.

If your landlord rejects your request, know that they can only refuse the proposed subtenant based on legitimate factors. The law says your landlord cannot unreasonably refuse your sublet.

For more information and to get a FREE Arizona sublease agreement click here.

Additional Resources for Arizona Tenants & Landlords: