Tenants Advocates & Association
to Toughen Leases
by Amanda Lee Myers
The Commerce Committee of the Arizona State Senate approved Wednesday a controversial bill that would lessen penalties against landlords who do not register their property with the county assessor.
If passed on the Senate floor, then the House floor and then by Gov. Janet Napolitano, the bill would help stop tenants from getting out of their leases, something they have been able to do for the past few years under the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, passed in 1999.
The new bill would require tenants to give their unregistered landlord 10 days notice to register. If the landlord does not comply, tenants can legally get out of their leases; if the landlord complies, the tenant still must honor his or her lease.
Ken Volk, Tempe resident and president of the Arizona Tenants Advocates, said the bill is unfair to tenants and gives more power to landlords, some of whom he calls slumlords.
"It's going to give landlords more of a green light to evade registration," said Volk, who has aided about 400 Valley residents in getting out of lease agreements because of unregistered landlords.
He said about 30 or 40 of those tenants lived in The Village on University Drive, and that he typically is helping one or two ASU students get out of their leases at a time.
Volk went to the state Capitol Wednesday to persuade Commerce Committee senators to vote no on the bill.
The bill is backed by the Arizona Multihousing Association.
Suzanne Gilstrap, who lobbied for the bill on behalf of the association at Wednesday's session, said Volk is part of a "cottage industry" and is abusing the Landlord and Tenant Act.
"[The act] was never created to use as a loophole," she said. "We created it requiring registration so cities would know who owned and managed properties in case a problem came up."
The Commerce Committee voted for the bill unanimously after about five minutes of discussion.
Volk added that the Arizona Tenants Advocates plans to stop the bill from becoming law.
originally published: February 19, 2004
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