Frequently Asked Questions
About the Break Lease Contract
Can my roommates break their leases at the same time?
Yes. The Break Lease Contract is conducted by the lease. All tenant signatories can be relieved of liability under the same lease, for no extra fee to TAP.
Do both spouses have to sign up and sign the letters?
If only one spouse is a lease signatory, that one is best. If both are on the lease, either spouse can act on behalf of the marital community. Just decide which one is most readily available for appointments.
What if I am the only signatory who wants out? Can I break my lease while the other signatories remain?
Yes. The remaining tenants will remain fully liable under the rental contract. However, if you have an antagonistic relationship with your roommates, it may be difficult to proceed if the Break Lease procedure preliminarily involves an inspection of the premises for physical violations.
What other costs are involved?
Generally, only document delivery costs. These can be either postage for certified mailings, or process server fees. Other than process server, it is recommended that personal delivery be avoided.
I need to locate new housing. If I list my current residence on the application to my prospective landlord, how can I be sure my present management will provide a decent and truthful reference?
Unfortunately, there is no assurance about this. Your existing landlord is likely to be ticked off at you, and may bad mouth you no matter what. There is really no good solution to this problem. The best you can do is anticipate the bad reference. Perhaps you can supply other references to counteract or substitute for your current landlord. Perhaps someone else can be the applicant at the prospective location, and you are merely listed as an occupant. Perhaps TAP can steer you to some decent prospective landlords who will work with you, knowing the validity of our work. Perhaps TAP can speak to your prospective management, providing information about the steps you are employing to address violations of your current landlord.
When can I actually vacate the dwelling? How long can I drag this thing out before moving?
That depends on the procedure used. Sometimes TAP can get you out immediately. With an inspection case, it takes the better part of a month, but usually at least 20 days. Bear in mind, there is a difference between terminating (or declaring void) the lease and vacating the premises. Just because you have terminated/voided the lease does not mean you must immediately vacate, although that is certainly an option. On the contrary, it is reasonable to stay through the next month, if that is what you require in order to secure new housing. TAP will guide you to properly advise the landlord as to when you will be vacating.
I am leaving the state. How can the case proceed in my absence?
It is best if there is someone reliable who can conduct follow-up activities on your behalf. These include documenting the violations that the landlord has not remedied, documenting that the premises were left by you in a clean, undamaged state, arranging for return of the keys, and participating in the joint move-out inspection (if it occurs). Absent such a person being available, TAP can secure the documentation (you provide the 35 mm film) and go to the inspection on your behalf for a fee of $50 per visit. In any case, as part of the program, Ken Volk, proprietor of TAP, will write, sign and send letters on your behalf - for no extra fee. This is allowed under the TAP power-of-attorney clause contained in the Break Lease Instructions.
How will my former landlord contact me after I have moved?
The landlord will be provided with your forwarding address. You will then send copies of whatever you receive to TAP, along with a copy of the envelope. Be sure the postmark is clearly legible, and indicate the date of receipt.
The Break Lease Contract is for one year. When will this be over? What if there is continuing fallout after the year is over?
Most cases conclude in less than six months. Yet it is not uncommon for letters to go back and forth beyond that time. If your Break Lease case is approaching the one-year anniversary and there is ongoing correspondence that requires response, so long as there is no imminent or pending court action TAP will, for perhaps $200 or so, consider renewing the contract for another year. Ask. However, it is just as likely that you could handle things on your own, effectively using previous letters as models for your own written replies.
My landlord told me I had to give him a 30-day notice, so I did it. Now what?
Now you should let TAP fix your mistake. Notices to terminate tenancy for landlord violations could range from immediate to 14 days. A 30-day notice is appropriate only if you are a month-to-month renter who intends to not renew, or otherwise if your lease specifically requires a notice of intent to not renew 30 days prior to its natural expiration. Instead, your notice is merely telling the landlord that you intend to be in violation of your contractual obligation. Here's an analogy: -- you shoplift an item from a store, then go the nearest payphone and call the police, informing the officer that you have committed the offense and will remain at the phone booth for 30 days awaiting the arrival of a public safety officer. Not the smartest move.
My landlord says that if I move before the lease ends I will be in breach of the contract and must pay the penalties in the lease. Why, then, does TAP say I have a right to break the lease?
TAP uses the term "break lease" because it is easily recognizable. Actually, in every case conducted by TAP, it is the landlord who has violated the law or the contract. Consequently, TAP assists tenants to lawfully terminate or declare void their rental contracts. It is really the landlord who has broken the lease and therefore must bear the financial
You say the landlord is at fault. So can I get damages from the landlord due to his violations?
Yes and no. Of course, in every case where it is feasible, TAP assists its members to claim damages against the landlord. This is a smart defensive tactic, paving the way for you to assert counterclaims against the landlord should he initiate litigation. Bear in mind, however, that the court system is loath to award damages, or even attorney's fees, to tenants. In fact, most justices of the peace violate the law by refusing to award attorney's fees to renters even when statutorily mandated. So it is a good idea to avoid court, if possible.
What about my security deposit?
Any deposit and unused prepaid rent must be returned to you less justifiable damages claimed by the landlord. Should you leave the premises clean and in good repair, and are legitimately free of obligations for further rent or other claims, then there is no basis for withholding the deposit. A.R.S. § 33-1321 and Arizona case law mandates that tenants are to be awarded monetary damages of twice the amount of the deposit and prepaid rent that has been wrongfully withheld. TAP will make that case for you, providing a good paper trail. But we will not represent you to recover the deposit and damages. Also, to that end we highly recommend securing attorney representation, because of the inherent bias of the courts. Therefore, due to the cost of attorney's fees it may be impractical to litigate for a claim amounting to less than $1,500. Whatever you do, avoid Small Claims courts, because then you expose yourself to the whims of a judge without any accountability by way of appeal, and we all know the result of that.
My lease has a buy-out clause. If I use TAP's services, am I obligated under that clause?
No. The lease buy-out clause is an option you will be choosing not to exercise. Rather, TAP is helping you exercise your statutory and other public policy rights. The same concept applies to any contractual penalties imposed as a result of leaving before the natural expiration of the rental contract -- if you terminate because of the landlord's violations, then that is the landlord's fault, and he must bear the consequential financial burden.
My landlord says he will agree to a settlement if I pay a break lease fee equal to a single month's rent, and then I am out of my contractual obligations. That sounds like a good deal, so should I take it?
That is a good deal. Just make sure to in advance obtain a written assurance, with the landlord's signature affixed, that any and all claims against you will be waived, and that you are free and clear of all obligations by virtue of the payment. Then bring it to TAP for our review. There may be some hidden clauses, or absence of essential terms, not discernible to you. Absent the landlord providing you with a written assurance, carefully read the lease for the penalties and your obligations should you vacate early. You may not only need to pay the break lease fee, but also repay concessions, give a 30-day notice, and still be liable for ongoing rent if the premises are not relet.
My landlord says he will not let me out of my lease. The management company is very large and well known, and I am sure will fix everything. So what good are you?
Not once has a landlord remedied every noncompliance brought to its attention under the Break Lease Contract. Big companies have a lot on their plates, and dealing with all the demands is tough work for them, and makes no financial sense. Of course, they will not agree to what TAP members are doing. However, TAP creates a very thorough paper trail for each case. It is merely the application of tenant rights under the law.
Click here for a partial listing of landlords whose leases have been successfully terminated with the Break Lease Contract.
If TAP is just following the law, I should be able to get out of my lease on my own. Why should I pay you to do the work?
Because the laws are confusing and tough to navigate. One slip-up, and you have lost the case. Rest assured, any tenant who walks into court without an appropriate answer will face a hostile judge ready to pounce. And, by proceeding on your own, your landlord is more likely to resort to legal action against you. You are an easy mark. TAP knows what it is doing, and has the language down pat. Furthermore, during the Break Lease process, circumstances occasionally arise that pose a benefit or risk to tenants; these may provide additional grounds for termination, bolstering the Break Lease case. You need to recognize these opportunities and dangers, and know how to respond. Finally, TAP offers attorney representation as part of the program. It's a good deal.
I am nervous about this. I want an attorney to represent me from the beginning. Is that advisable?
No, and only if you have money to burn. Most attorneys are not aware of the intricacies of Arizona landlord-tenant law and procedures. Very few will even represent tenants. And of those who do, TAP's experiences with them have, by and large, been less than stellar. You will spend many thousands of dollars to have an attorney perform work that fails to even approach the detail and effectiveness of what TAP does. Many attorneys will be reticent to take the aggressive approaches employed by TAP.
Is Ken Volk an attorney?
No. When necessary, TAP retains an outside attorney.
How do I pay?
Bank checks or certified funds payable to "Tenants Assistance Program or Ken Volk." Of course, cash is fine. TAP also accepts credit card payments.
Sign up and Purchase the Break Lease Program
Arizona Tenants Advocates (ATA) is associated with Tenants Assistance Program (TAP), a sole proprietorship owned by Ken Volk. All TAP members become ATA members at no extra charge, providing protection from landlord retaliation.