3OYS: Know your rights as a tenant

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PHOENIX -- Tenants at Mirabella Apartments are not only angry, they're confused about their options and rights.

Sharron Sauls, a counselor from the City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services, explained that tenants do have rights when it comes to essential services.

"Essential services would be things like water, heat, electricity, things you need to live. That’s what they don’t have today," said Sauls while discussing the water situation at Mirabella Apartments.

But getting those essential services can be a lot of work. First, tenants like those at Mirabella are required to put in writing to the landlord that their water needs to be turned on. 

If  it's not, residents are allowed to find reasonable substitute housing, and even be reimbursed by the landlord.  If services are not reinstated within five days of written notice, tenants are allowed to move out without repercussions.

"They have a responsibility first to notify the landlord of any needed repairs being the water is shut off and then they have a right to pursue legal action to terminate the lease, they have several options," Sauls said.

Ken Volk heads up Arizona Tenants Advocates and says it’s unfortunate when residents like those at Mirabella suffer. But as long as residents put everything in writing the law should be on the side of tenants.

"If you can prove that the landlord non-compliance is deliberate...you can actually get the landlord  to pay where you're staying," said Volk.

As for now, the clock is ticking for residents. The city did turn their water back on as a courtesy, but it will only be on for a week until the owner of the apartment complex makes a good faith payment. After that it will be turned off again. 

In the meantime, residents need to start putting things in writing, Volk says. 

"If you have no water, you don't bathe, you don't cook... it's pretty urgent to get water."