The current state of the economy has caused several industries to struggle, including the real estate market, which has seen countless homes be foreclosed on and many homeowners turn into renters.
Even before rental rights became a prominent issue for local residents like it is now after the recent increase in renters, two Valley residents took it upon themselves to create a guidebook for Arizona tenants and landlords that outlines their legal rights.
Co-authors of Arizona Rental Rights, David Peterson, of Ahwatukee Foothills, and Andrew Hull, of Phoenix, started working together over two decades ago when Peterson moved from Minnesota to Scottsdale.
“It’s kind of a quiet success story,” Peterson said. “We’re in our 22nd year and fifth edition.”
Peterson owned property in Minnesota and was a landlord for some time before moving to Scottsdale, where he switched hats and became a renter. Peterson said he first encountered a problem when the landlord who managed the property was trying to enact new rules and regulations that were not included in the lease, causing him to look further into his rights as a tenant.
“I’m the other side of it,” said Peterson, who is the budget manager for the Arizona Social Security Disability Program. “I’m the person that was renting. I’m the person that was living the rental situation; Andrew was the expert who specializes in tenant and landlord law, so we combined our tools and it has been a success story for about 24 years now.”
At the time, the only resource that was available to renters and landlords were the revised statutes that are available through the courts or, now, online, Peterson said.
“We just thought it would be a good idea to get a generic book out there that both landlords and tenants could use to understand their basic rights without getting into a lot of the technical legal arguments that might or might not come up,” said Hull, who has been practicing landlord and tenant law for nearly 30 years.
The book has proved to be a useful asset to both tenants and landlords through the steady sales of the book and a personal experience that Hull describes as his “most embarrassing moment as an attorney.”
“I had a tenant show up in court one day with a copy of the book and he used it to win the case against me and the client by using my own book and pointing out that he followed the law according to what the book said,” Hull said. “The tenant afterward asked me if I’d autograph the book for him.”
Over the years, the book has grown to include sample forms of appropriate notices, humorous anecdotes that people can relate to and, most importantly, policy changes like the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009.
“The foreclosure laws when they were enacted at the federal level we actually had to add because even people in my government office here, there’s a lot of people that rent and I know a lot of friends that rent and they aren’t clear what the rules and regulations are and the foreclosure thing has been a big topic this year and last year,” Peterson said.
Recently, one of the members of Peterson’s office came to him with a problem regarding a foreclosure notice she received from Fannie Mae.
“It was kind of a surprise,” said Secretary Blanca Quintero, 37, who has worked with Peterson for the past five years.
The notice she received gave her the option to move out within 90 days with the help of relocation assistance or to continue renting the property if an agreement could be made with the bank.
Quintero said that she has had good renter history, but her property was being foreclosed because her landlord had not been making payments to the bank and she has had problems at this residence before, during which she has used Arizona Rental Rights and Peterson’s expertise as a resource.
“It’s helped me out in the past situation that I had regarding the past (real estate agent),” she said. “He helped me through the process.
Despite many people having their properties foreclosed, Hull said that real estate agents he has talked to believe that the market is starting to turn since there have been more out-of-state investors lately and the eviction rate is down.
“Normally in a bad economy the evictions get extremely high and in this particular economy, from January to May the evictions Valleywide were down 20 percent,” Hull said. “There just didn’t seem to be much of an explanation as to why other than a lot of landlords just didn’t have the money to do the evictions that they would do in the past.”
Peterson credits part of the success of the book, which is available at bookstores and libraries, to the popularity of the rental topic.
“We all know that people have had to leave their homes and they’re renting for the first time in years and they’re forced into a situation where they don’t know what their ins and outs are, what the rules and regulations are, unless they inquire or talk to somebody and they need to know what their rights and privileges are under the law,” Peterson said. “This is like that perfect little guidebook for everyone that’s in that situation.”
Stephanie Snyder is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.