A new targeted eviction moratorium issued last week by the Centers for Disease Control includes areas like Alamance County where community transmission rates of COVID-19 are substantial.
Arizona renters impacted by COVID-19 can be evicted for the first time in 16 months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium expired Saturday.
Most housing experts anticipate a spike in evictions in August, but the true number of people at risk of losing their housing in Arizona is unclear.
About 138,500 of the state’s tenants say they are behind on rent, according to the latest Census Household Pulse Survey.
But not all landlords will seek eviction. Some may wait for their tenants to receive rental assistance from one of the state’s slow-moving aid programs. Others may try to push out delinquent renters quickly and fill their rentals with a long wait list of renters looking for housing.
The Arizona Multifamily Association is encouraging its landlord members to work with their tenants, wait for rental assistance payments and waive late fees.
Eviction filings dropped by about 50% during the pandemic. The Maricopa County Justice Courts are preparing for a potential return to the pre-pandemic filing rate, but court officials are unsure just how quickly that return will occur.
“Some believe there will be a large flood of case activity; others believe it will be just a light sprinkle which builds gradually over time,” justice courts spokesperson Scott Davis said.
How many people could be evicted?
More than 63,000 renter households in Arizona are currently at risk of eviction — 31,000 more than last month, according to Zillow.
Zillow projects landlords will file 10,342 eviction filings in Arizona in August and September — and 3,962 are likely to result in eviction.
However, some landlords already have filed for eviction and could seek physical removal of their renters in the coming months as well.
The eviction moratorium did not prevent landlords from filing for eviction and getting a judgment against tenants who owed rent — it only stopped landlords from physically removing tenants.
In Maricopa County, landlords filed for almost 30,000 evictions and justices of the peace entered more than 19,000 eviction judgments between March 24, 2020, the day the first eviction moratorium began, and the end of February 2021.
Most renters who had eviction judgments against them remained in their homes. That could change now.
What could happen to delinquent renters
Davis said the eviction process will largely return to normal now that the moratorium expired.
In all cases, renters will receive notice of court hearings where they can appear before a judge. While evictions may be filed in early August, delinquent renters likely won’t be removed from their housing for a week or longer because of the time it takes to go though the standard court process.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced Wednesday that landlords with properties that have mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac must give renters 30 days notice to vacate before requiring them to leave.
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What the eviction process will look like for renters will largely depend on whether their landlord filed for eviction prior to the moratorium’s expiration.
Here’s what the process will look like for several likely scenarios:
Eviction filed, no judgment
If a landlord already has filed for eviction, but never received a judgment, the landlord likely will have to file an amended complaint to update the amount the renter owes.
Then, the case will proceed normally with a hearing.
In all post-moratorium hearings, judges will ask landlords if they received rental assistance, and if so, whether it covered the full debt or if the landlord agreed to waive some of the debt as a condition of the assistance.
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If the landlord wins, a judge will enter a judgment that includes the date by which the renters have to vacate the property or else a constable can forcibly remove them with a writ of restitution. Renters will have at least five days to leave.
Judgment awarded, no writ
If a landlord has already received a judgment but has not filed for a writ of restitution to remove the renters, the landlord can file a motion to amend the judgment to increase or decrease the judgment amount, if necessary.
If the renter doesn’t leave the property, the landlord can file an application for a writ, which will be reviewed by a judge. Renters will be given notice if a writ is granted and it won’t be enforced for at least five days.
Eviction moratorium:Rental help might not reach tenants before ban ends
If a landlord got a judgment and a writ, but a constable refused to execute the writ because the renter showed proof he or she was covered under the CDC moratorium, that writ is now dead.
Landlords must reapply for a writ, which will be reviewed by a judge. Renters will be given notice if a writ is granted, and it won’t be enforced for at least five days.
New eviction filing
If a renter is behind on rent but a landlord hasn’t yet filed for eviction, the landlord can do so now per pre-moratorium norms.
This includes providing a renter with five days notice to pay the debt before filing for eviction.
Landlords will also have to file an attestation that they’ve complied with federal laws related to eviction and mortgage forbearance.
Rental assistance should help, but application backlogs remain
Asked Thursday about the CDC eviction moratorium expiration, Gov. Doug Ducey said renters have has access to “a river of resources from the federal and state government.”
“People have received assistance, they’ve received benefits,” Ducey said. “So we want people to pay the rent. We don’t want to see anyone displaced. There’s been a social safety net in Arizona that has been stretched and strengthened and accentuated.”
Tempe renter Kim McKellar has been unable to use months of rental assistance she was granted because her landlord refuses to take it. She was behind on rent and had used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium to protect herself and her husband from multiple eviction attempts.
The state has received almost $1 billion for rental and utility assistance this year. But a small fraction of that money actually has reached struggling renters.
Some renters have waited more than four months after applying with no contact from the aid program.
Nearly 10,000 applications were pending at the end of July and likely were not processed before the moratorium ended.
The Arizona Multifamily Association has encouraged its members not to pursue eviction if a renter has applied for assistance, but landlords don’t have to follow that guidance.
How to apply for rental assistance
Fifteen emergency rental and utility assistance programs using federal funds are operating in Arizona. Residents can only apply for the program available in their area, which can get confusing, especially in metro Phoenix where multiple programs are operating at different levels of government.
The Arizona Department of Economic Security accepts applications from all counties except Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties. Within Maricopa County, the county-run program is open to all residents except those who live in Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Mesa and Phoenix. Those cities either have their own program or contract with nonprofits to offer rental aid for their residents. Six Native American tribes also operate programs for their members.
The state is taking applications for renters and landlords in rural Arizona at des.az.gov/ERAP. Any Arizona resident can apply for utility assistance through the state portal as well.
People can apply to the Maricopa County program by using the portal at maricopa.gov/renthelp.
Phoenix residents currently can only apply by calling the Human Services Department and scheduling an appointment. The city recommends calling on Mondays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. More information can be found at phoenix.gov/humanservices/programs/emergency.
Mesa is taking applications at mesaaz.gov/mesacares.
Chandler and Gilbert residents can apply at azcend.org/community-action-program.
Glendale residents can apply at glendaleaz.com/live/city_services.
Coverage of housing insecurity on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-694-1823. Follow her on Twitter @jboehm_NEWS.
AUTHOR: Jessica Boehm