PHOENIX — Patty Kordis says her son Alex was left without a place to live when a fire tore through his apartment complex. Despite not being able to live there, Alex says his complex still wants him to pay rent.
"They charged me a late fee. They actually called me the next day that rent was due," said Alex. "I told them no, I'm not living there, there's no reason to pay rent."
In some cases, Alex may be right, but it comes down to the contract you signed and the law in your state.
In Arizona, the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act states if your home is damaged to a point you can't live in it, you can leave the unit immediately.
In this case you must write your landlord within two weeks that you want to void your rental agreement. In that case, your agreement ends the day you leave.
However, almost every state also has an implied warranty of habitability. That means landlords are also required to provide a livable unit or substitute. If they fail to do so, then the tenant can withhold rent payments.
In Alex's case, he says he wasn't offered an alternative, and when contacted, his complex did not comment.
Even though you may be in the right, withholding rent can mean the landlord challenging you in court. So, it can be a good idea to set aside the money you'd be paying just in case you have to fight that battle later.