Pandemic Eviction Delays for Residential Renters
Because of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, policy makers anticipate many renters may be unable to pay their rent. To address this problem, Governor Ducey entered an executive order on March 24, 2020 (“Executive Order 2020-14"), which was extended by Executive Order 2020-49 on July 16, 2020. The governor’s order allows qualified tenants in residential properties to delay eviction in some cases.
Normally when tenants fail to pay rent, landlords seek eviction by filing a court action (after providing required notice). If the landlord prevails, the court enters judgment for unpaid rent, court costs, attorney fees, and other costs and damages. The eviction judgment also provides that a writ of restitution can issue by a certain date, usually five days after the date of judgment. If the tenant does not move out by the time the writ of restitution issues, the landlord is entitled to request that the county constable forcibly remove the tenants from the property.
The governor’s executive order does not prevent landlords from filing an eviction action and obtaining an eviction judgment and writ of restitution. The relief granted to tenants applies only to the final step – the service of the writ by the constable. Because of the order, constables cannot legally serve the writ and lock tenants out until the expiration of the governor’s order (currently October 31, 2020).
Tenants must show that they are entitled to relief by notifying the landlord in writing of their hardship, with supporting documentation. Tenants must be able to show these documents to officials to prove they have complied with the order’s requirements.
Tenants are still legally required to pay rent, follow the rules in the rental agreement, notify the landlord of necessary repairs, and fulfill their other obligations. The only change is that tenants who fail to pay rent cannot be locked out until the governor’s executive order expires.
Tenants who remain in a property without paying rent should be aware that eviction judgments carry consequences in addition to removal from the property. They should realize that the rent owed under the rental agreement continues to accumulate. This could lead to a significant amount owed once the executive order expires. Also, the order only applies to evictions for nonpayment of rent; it does not delay lockout when tenants are evicted for other breaches of their rental agreement.
Landlords may want to consider the consequences of pursuing a judgment that cannot be enforced by removal from the property, as this situation almost eliminates tenants’ incentives to maintain the property. Landlords in this situation should consider conducting regular inspections to make sure that the property is maintained.
Nothing in the law or the executive order prevents parties from modifying their rental agreements or reaching new agreements. Payment arrangements, variable rent, or an agreement to early termination of the rental agreement may all be appropriate in certain circumstances. Landlords and tenants in difficult situations may be able to work together to minimize hardship for all parties.
All of Governor Ducey’s executive orders are available at
The Arizona Residential Landlord Tenant Act is available at https://housing.az.gov/sites/default/files/documents/files/Landlord-Tenant-Act-ADOH-Publication-July-2018_0.pdf
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