Written Lease for Less Than One Year Cannot Be Modified Verbally

Question: We signed a nine-month lease for a home in Apache Junction. The rent was $1,800 per month. There were a number of repairs that were needed before we could move into the home. Our landlord verbally agreed with us that, rather than the landlord making the repairs, we could move into the home now and that he would reduce the monthly rent to $1,650 per month. One week later, before we could even start making the repairs, our landlord returned our $1,650 rent check to us, and demanded that we pay the original $1,800 rent per month. The landlord said that, since the agreement for the reduced $1,650 rent was not in writing, he changed his mind and now wants us to pay the $1,800 rent per month required by the written nine-month lease and he will do the repairs. Is our landlord correct?

Answer: Probably. A nine-month lease, or any lease for one year or less, is not required to be in writing. A.R.S. § 44-101. Your nine-month lease, however, was in writing. Any written lease generally cannot be amended orally. 71 Ariz. 53. Therefore, this written nine-month lease for $1,800 monthly rent should be enforceable.

Note: If you had immediately made the repairs because you had detrimentally relied on the landlord’s promise to reduce the monthly rent to $1,650, your landlord may be “estopped,” or prevented, from requiring the $1,800 per month rent in the written lease.

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