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Landlord Filed Suit - All income exempt. Does that get filed in answer? (AZ)


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Greetings,

I'm helping out a family friend who was recently served by a former landlord for a dispute in the previous lease/rental for < $3 K .

I am letting her know she has to answer, but in addition she is a disabled vet on disability. This is her only source of income. From what I read, this income is all exempt. How would we go about answering the complaint and sticking in there, by the way - all my income is exempt.

This is in Arizona.

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Just answer the complaint as to what the dispute is. Don't bother stating that my income is exempt. That comes in the financial statement after the landlord has bothered with the expense of the lawsuit.

Realize that most landlords do not bother with lawsuits for monetary damages for this very reason. Instead, they simply factor that into the rent they charge (especially if the market for rentals is solid).

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Guest usctrojanalum

Having income that is exempt from execution is not an affirmative defense to a lawsuit, your friend will lose pretty quickly if they are going to go that route. If you want to let them know the income is exempt, fine. But that will change nothing with regards to how the plaintiff will proceed. Bills are still bills, just because someone's income is exempt from execution does not mean they no longer owe outstanding bills.

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Well firstly you need to determine what the landlord is suing over. Is it unpaid rent? Or damages to the property?

"Unpaid rent" is a murky term, by the way. In a lot of leases, fines and penalties can be written in as payable as unpaid rent. So you need a copy of the lease.

It is also, in nearly all jurisdictions, a requirement that the landlord specify line by line what it is they are attempting to recover for. If unpaid rent, they need to specify how they came to that amount.

For damages, the landlord has to itemize and provide receipts for everything they supposedly fixed that they claim was damaged by the tenant. They cannot up-charge the damages. They can only claim what they have receipts for.

They also, generally, cannot charge for "normal wear and tear" in the course of the lease. If the carpet is dirty after two years, they generally can't charge to have it steam cleaned. But if there is a burn-hole in the carpet from a dropped cigarette then they can charge for repair of that (but usually not the whole room being replaced!). If it is their normal practice to repaint a property after each tenant moves out regardless of condition, then they can't generally charge for that.

There also should have been a move-in checklist done and a move-out checklist noting any damages at both times. The landlord can't come back later and claim damages if it wasn't on the move-out checklist or if it was there before the tenant moved in. So that's another thing to scrutinize. If your friend was smart, she took pictures of each room when she moved in so there is proof of condition.

Lastly, just because the lease says something, doesn't mean it is enforcible. An example is a write in where they charge $100 to steam clean carpets. As indicated above, that is almost always deemed wear and tear, so that provision of the lease would be unenforcible. And, if there is no severability clause in the lease, then if any part of the lease is deemed unenforcible, then the entire lease is void.

Edited by Methuss
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