Currently, in Arizona, there is a pause on all evictions and eviction hearing due to the economic hardships brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. The only exception to this pause on evictions is criminal activity on the property. It is likely that even when the state begins to allow evictions at the end of October there will be a long wait time for hearings and actual tenant removal because of the large number of landlords that will be requesting an eviction. If the landlord does file for permission to evict, they are still obligated to fulfill their responsibilities according to the lease such as not entering the property unannounced, providing electricity and water services, and respecting the property of the tenant. For further information about your rights and responsibilities as a renter before an eviction hearing please read our previous article.
The most common reason for evictions in the US is the failure to pay rent, accounting for almost 80% of all evictions. If you are facing eviction because you have fallen behind and can no longer pay your rent, chances are you also cannot afford an attorney or professional legal advice. This is true for most tenants; in the majority of eviction hearings the tenants and landlords represent themselves before a judge to explain the details of their situation. While appearing before a judge may seem scary the eviction process is very standard. Being informed can prepare you to represent yourself in the process.
Depending on the reason for eviction, your landlord will be able to ask the court for a hearing either five or ten days after giving you the eviction notice. If you are behind on payments or there is damage to the property, then you have five days to fix the problem. If you have broken your lease in some other way, you have ten days to respond to that issue. Then, the court will schedule a time, date, judge, and location for your hearing and send you a letter with all this information. If you have a conflict at the time of the trial such as another court appearance or medical procedure, then you can request the court to change the time of the hearing. In Arizona, the local government’s website will have a request form that you can print and fill out to ask for a time change. Then the court will let you know if your request was approved and give you a new date for the trial.
If you do not have a conflict with the court date, at this point you will prepare for your hearing. You can do this by pulling together all the documents that you have related to your lease or rental agreement so that you are prepared for any questions the judge may ask. This is an important step because if you do not appear on the day of the hearing your landlord will almost automatically win the case. Before the trial, you can also look at the court’s calendar to find out when the judge for your case is having other hearings and sit in on another eviction hearing with that judge so that you know what to expect on the day of your hearing. When it comes to the day of your hearing, the final preparation you can do is dressing in court appropriate attire. A judge is more likely to be sympathetic to your side of the case if you look respectable in court, so it is important to dress in clothing you would either wear to church, an interview, or a funeral.
When you appear in court the judge will ask both you and your landlord questions about the situation so that they are able to understand the facts of your case. After this, they will either decide that day or send a decision in the mail several days later. The judge will either dismiss the case, which means that you will not be evicted or grant your landlord the eviction. As soon as the decision is made, you have five days to appeal or ask the court to look at your case again. A roadmap to the appeal process is included in the Superior Court Rules of Appellate Procedure guide. If the court approves of your appeal, then the original decision will be reviewed, and another decision will be given.
When you get the final decision either you will be allowed to stay in your house, or the court will decide to evict you. If the court signs off on your eviction, they will give you a date to move out and then if you do not move out by this date a constable or officer of the court can physically remove you from the property. It is important to know that during the entire eviction process, your landlord cannot physically remove you from the property or harass you into moving out by turning off the electricity, showing up unannounced, or using other intimidation tactics.
Most non-criminal eviction cases in Arizona do not involve or require lawyers, but if you would like to seek professional legal aid, you can apply for free legal aid from the state legal association. To apply for this program visit https://www.azlawhelp.org/accessToJustice.cfm and complete the questionnaire listed under “Begin Interview” on their website.