Metro Phoenix tenants who couldn’t pay rent their due to the pandemic are facing possible eviction again.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to block an extension of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium allowed landlords to start evicting renters for missed payments last Friday.
August eviction filings are down from July, according to preliminary data from the Maricopa County Justice Courts. But only five days of the month weren’t covered by the eviction ban.
Eviction filings during the first weeks of September will be more telling about what landlords are deciding to do, said Scott Davis, spokesperson for the justice courts.
Almost 120,000 tenants across the state say they are behind on their rent payments, according to the latest Census Household Pulse Survey. About 36,000 Arizona renters say they likely will be evicted.
Metro Phoenix housing advocates say they are hearing from many renters with landlords who have moved to evict them this week.
“I just talked to a renter from Mesa who had an eviction hearing scheduled for 15 minutes later,” said Pamela Bridge, director of advocacy and litigation at Community Legal Services. “Her last eviction notice before this week had been in March, and she was scrambling to figure out what to do.”
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Bridge said there are steps Arizona renters no longer covered by the eviction moratorium can take to avoid or fight an eviction, get more time before they must move out and get a judgement off their credit records.
Eviction checklist for renters
Tenants can delay evictions if their rental falls into any of these categories, according to CLS, which provides free legal aid to tenants.
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Check to see if your landlord has a mortgage forbearance. Until the end of September, there’s still a moratorium on evictions for rentals with five units or more that are under federally backed forbearance agreements. Tenants can find out if they are in a rental covered by this eviction ban on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.
Check to see if your landlord has a federally backed mortgage. Tenants of rentals financed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Housing Administration or U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs don’t have to move out for 30 days after their landlord gets an eviction writ or notice to vacate. Renters can research this in property records and on the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac websites.
Did your landlord accept rental assistance in the last 30 days? Most rental aid programs require property owners not to evict a tenant for 30 days after receiving the money. Renters can contact groups administering the funds for this information. A list of Arizona rental aid programs with contact information is available at azevictionhelp.org.
Is your landlord charging you for rent between March 27, 2020, and July 24, 2020? The CARES Act prohibits landlords with federally backed mortgages or with tenants with federal subsidies from charging penalties or late fees for unpaid rent during that timeframe. Contact Community Legal at clsaz.org to fight this type of eviction.
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The 4 legal scenarios for renters
Arizona renters facing eviction for not making rent payments fall into four categories, according to CLS.
If a landlord hasn’t filed a complaint yet, then it’s a typical eviction with a hearing, judgement and potentially a writ.
Renters must get three days notice of a hearing.
If the landlord gets a judgement, then the tenant could be locked out within five to 30 days, depending on if the property is federally financed or the landlord received rental aid.
Bridge advises tenants in this situation to try to pay at least a partial payment, quickly apply for rental aid or negotiate with their landlord to move and potentially avoid a judgment.
Tenants in this situation can also dispute an eviction by filing counterclaims if their landlord didn’t make repairs or for “bad notice” because they didn’t receive correct and on-time information for their case.
The landlord has filed a complaint, but there’s no judgment yet.
Many Phoenix-area tenants who were covered under the moratorium are in in this situation.
“The justice courts are scheduling these hearings now and giving them priority, said Bridge. “Tenants must show up to these hearings to try to avoid a default judgement.”
Maricopa County eviction hearings are being held via video and phone, and no more than 25 per hour, per court are behind held.
Housing advocates advise tenants to get an updated ledger of what they owe, including deductions for rental aid.
Davis said if a landlord and tenant agree to try to get rental aid during the eviction court process, the case will be granted a stay or delay.
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Tenants in this situation can also dispute an eviction by filing counterclaims or for “bad notice.”
The landlord has received a judgment against a renter, but not a writ of restitution, which is the court order issued for a constable to lock a tenant out.
This is another situation many renters previously protected by the moratorium are facing.
“In this case, the landlord must amend a judgment if they have received rental assistance for the tenant,” Bridge said. “Tenants need to be watching for hearings for amended judgments.”
She said renters in this scenario can’t use bad notice, counterclaims or partial payments to dispute an eviction.
Renters can pay all of what they owe and potentially get an eviction judgment vacated at this point, so renters in this situation should race to get rental aid, said Bridge.
A writ has been issued, and the tenant has moved out.
At this point, Bridge advise tenants to file for a satisfaction of judgment if they have paid everything they owe. That gets the eviction off their records and makes it easier for them to rent again.
A tenant being evicted can also try to negotiate with a landlord to get a judgment vacated by moving out early or paying what they can. That also helps their credit.
“There are legal ways Arizona tenants can land on their feet during eviction process,” Bridge said.
Reach the reporter at Catherine.Reagor@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8040. Follow her on Twitter @Catherinereagor.
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AUTHOR: Catherine Reagor and Jessica Boehm