If you are facing an eviction or have received an eviction notice, knowing the law can give you a layer of protection as a renter or leaseholder. This protection can help you do several things such as delay an eviction, protect your personal property, and even prevent an eviction altogether. While housing law can often be daunting, the answers to just two questions can make all the difference when it comes to avoiding eviction. Firstly, what are your rights and responsibilities as a tenant? And secondly, what are your landlord’s responsibilities in an eviction?
Because leases and rental agreements are both legal documents, you and your landlord are both entitled to some things and responsible for others. For you as a tenant, you have the right to reside in the property while you are in the agreement. This comes with other rights such as the services specified in your lease agreement such as electricity, water, and possibly Wi-Fi depending on your lease. If you fall behind on payments, these rights are still protected up until the contract is legally broken. This means that even if you are late or have missed several payments this does not give your landlord the right to turn off your power or stop the water going to your house. If they do this is what is called a “self-help” eviction because the landlord is helping themselves to use the property. Under Arizona state law, this is illegal and you can actually take actions against your landlord if they attempt to take these measures against you. This protects your rights as a tenant to stay in your home until the landlord follows the formal procedure of evicting you from the home.
While the use of the home is one of your protected rights during an eviction you also have responsibilities in this process that almost all relate to the reasons why a landlord could evict you. There are four main reasons why a landlord would be able to evict you which are listed below.
- Fail to Pay Rent: This is the most common and most straight forward reason for an eviction in the US. If you fall behind on your rent payments, your landlord has the right to serve you with a notice that he/she is going to file for an eviction with the local court. If they give you an eviction notice, in the state of Arizona you have five days to pay the rent that you owe. If you pay within this five-day window then they no longer have a right to even attempt to evict you, but if you do not then they can still request an eviction through a local court and this will create a case that you would have to dispute at trial if you choose to.
- Fail to Maintain the Property: The second most common reason for an eviction is the failure to maintain the property. This reason is somewhat vague and open to interpretation but in essence, what it means is that in your lease or rental agreement you promised that you would take care of the property in a certain way but you have failed to do so. Again, in the state of Arizona, if your landlord gives you an eviction notice for this reason you have five days to fix whatever issue there is on the property. And if you fail to do so the procedure is the same as the no payment case.
- Breach of Contract or Lease: In addition to paying rent and maintaining the property, most rental agreements and leases have other requirements for the tenant. These may range from a restriction on the number of people who can live in the home to requiring trash removal once a week. If your landlord attempts to evict you for a breach of contract, then in Arizona you have 10 days to fix this mistake. Following those ten days, the proceedings are the same as missing rent and neglecting the property.
- Crime Committed on the Property: The fourth and final reason for eviction is committing a crime on the property or using the property to facilitate a crime. Unfortunately, there is no dispute period for this cause of eviction outside of court. If your landlord has substantial reason to believe that you have committed a crime on the property, such as an arrest, and you would like to dispute this you must appear before a court.
If you can avoid or resolve all of the actions described above, then in the state of Arizona your landlord does not have grounds to even request an eviction. By being aware of your responsibilities, you shift the burden of eviction to the landlord and make it much more unlikely that they will attempt to evict you.
Note: It is important to remember that no matter what the reason is for your eviction, you must save copies of everything related to the eviction so that you have proof of your actions if your landlord takes you to court. This includes emails, phone records, payment records, pictures of the property, and anything else that may be relevant to your eviction case.
This brings us to the responsibilities of the landlord. If your landlord does attempt to proceed with an eviction there are strict guidelines set by the state of how they may do this. If they do not follow the guidelines, then the eviction is not legal, and you are not obligated to move out of your residence. The first requirement of property owners or landlords is that they give you a written notice that they plan on asking a local court for an eviction. This notice can either be handed directly to you by the landlord or they can send it to you in the mail. Something to be careful of is if they send it to you by mail, in the court’s eyes it is considered received five days after it was sent, even if you did not actually receive it by that date. If you receive a notice by mail, check the postdate marked by the Post Office to see when it was sent so that you know the timeline for the rest of the eviction going forward. In the notice, the landlord must declare why they are trying to evict you. Then, depending on the reason they give you will either have five or ten days to resolve the issue before they are legally able to submit a request to a court for an eviction hearing.
If you do not fix the issue within either 5 or 10 days and the landlord asks the court for an eviction hearing, then the court will review the request and reasoning given for the eviction. If the judge believes that the landlord has a valid reason to request the eviction such as proof of no payment, the court will schedule a date for the eviction hearing and notify you. We will go into further detail about the proceedings of an eviction hearing in another article, but all proceedings will eventually have one of two outcomes. Either the court will decide to grant your landlord the eviction and set a date that you must move out or dismiss the case. If the judge orders your eviction, the landlord cannot physically remove you from the property. A constable or another officer of the court are the only people with the authority to physically remove you during an eviction. If you win the case, the landlord still cannot harass you or order you to leave the property.
Throughout this entire process, it is important to remember that you have both rights and responsibilities that will allow you to stay in your home and that your landlord has the responsibility of following the legal guidelines to evict you. If you find that your landlord is trying to evict you illegally, then you have the right to contact a legal authority. This may be the police (for example if they enter the house without warning or notice and tell you to leave) or a lawyer (for example if they shut off your electricity) depending on the situation. You have the right to stay in your home unless a court tells you otherwise so do not allow your landlord to bully or force you out without just cause.