My two roommates and I have been renting a house here in Arizona for over two years. We know that the landlord has recently received some noise complaints from one of our neighbors. The landlord is now threatening to evict us. Can we be evicted? Do we have some rights that we can exercise to protect ourselves?
Can I be evicted by my landlord from a rental home in Arizona for noise complaints?
In Arizona as in all states, tenants are legally bound to conduct themselves in a peaceful and reasonable manner, so that they do not interfere with their neighbors. This duty is known by the quaint name "the covenant of quiet enjoyment," and it is listed in the Arizona Landlord-Tenant Act as a specific tenant obligation: "The tenant shall…conduct himself and require other persons on the premises with his consent to conduct themselves in a manner that will not disturb his neighbors' peaceful enjoyment of the premises." (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 33-1341(7).)
Arizona law is very specific when it comes to violations of the tenant obligations in Section 1341. If the noise complained about "materially affects health and safety," the landlord may deliver a "cure or quit" notice to the tenant, telling him that unless the noise stops within five days, the lease will terminate. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1368.)
A second violation of the same nature results in harsher consequences. The landlord may deliver a ten-day notice to quit, which doesn't give the tenant a chance to reform. If the tenant doesn't leave within ten days, the landlord can file for eviction.
Neither Arizona statutes nor court opinions define specifically how much noise is needed before it becomes a violation of the covenant of quiet enjoyment and Section 1341. Instead, judges use their common sense when evaluating the evidence. Normal activities during the daytime, which might be annoying to some tenants (such as the sound of plumbing, footsteps, or children playing) may not rise to the level of a violation. But unusual and excessive noise, particularly at night, might be unreasonable. A landlord who seeks to evict on this basis will need ample proof of the level of the noise, and its effect on neighbors, to prove his case if the tenant refuses to move, thus necessitating an eviction lawsuit.
Tenants who rent month-to-month, instead of under a fixed-term lease, will find themselves at a disadvantage. Monthly tenants can be terminated for no reason at all, or any reason as long as it is not a discriminatory or retaliatory one. These terminations are known as "not for cause" terminations. In Arizona, the notice period is 30 days.
A landlord who has ended a monthly tenancy due to noise complaints will not run afoul of the ban on retaliatory or discriminatory motives. If the tenant refuses to leave and triggers an eviction lawsuit, the landlord won't have to prove anything in court other than that he properly delivered the termination notice. Many landlords will chose a 30-day notice, rather than a five-day notice for cause, to spare themselves the need to prove that the noise was unreasonable and a violation of Section 1341.