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The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act ("ARLTA"), A.R.S. § 33-1301 et. seq., are the Arizona eviction laws that govern residential evictions in Arizona. Arizona does not have a state agency that enforces provisions of the ARLTA, so landlord/tenant disputes and evictions are, in general, handled by Arizona Justice Courts.
Arizona Landlords CANNOT Use Self-Help Remedies
An Arizona landlord is not allowed to use "self-help" to force a tenant to leave an apartment or rental property. The exclusive remedy for regaining possession of rental property is filing a lawsuit under the ARLTA. Section § 33-1374 specifically provides that:
“A landlord may not recover or take possession of the dwelling unit by action or otherwise, including forcible removal of the tenant or his possessions, willful diminution of services to the tenant by interrupting or causing the interruption of electric, gas, water or other essential service to the tenant …”
If a landlord uses self-help and unlawfully removes or excludes the tenant from the premises or interrupts utilities, the tenant can bring suit and recover possession and also recover statutory damages in the amount or two months' rent or twice the actual damages sustained by the tenant, whichever is greater. A.R.S. § 33-1367.
"Without-Cause" Evictions Are Not Allowed
Unlike some states, Arizona does not allow "without cause" or "no-fault" evictions. If a tenant is in compliance with his or her lease including being current on payment of rent, a landlord cannot force the tenant to vacate. A landlord must wait until the term of the lease ends pursuant to the passage of time. Obviously, a landlord can attempt to negotiate an early termination of any residential lease, but the tenant has no obligation to agree.
Arizona Eviction Procedures In A Nutshell -- Five Steps
As described more fully below, there are generally five steps to evicting your tenant. Each step must be followed carefully. For example, if the wrong notice is sent or if the eviction is started too soon, then your case is likely to be dismissed.
Step One -- Give Notice
The type of notice that a landlord must give depends on the reason for evicting the tenant. The various types and reasons are governed by ARS § 33-1368(A) and (B). A sample five-day notice can be seen here. The ARLTA provides for 5-day, 10-day and No-day notices.
Arizona Five-Day Notice -- Non-payment of Rent
For non-payment of rent, a five-day notice is required under § 33-1368(B). The notice must state that rent is due and that the landlord is terminating the lease if the rent is not paid within five days. If the rent remains unpaid, the landlord may file a special detainer lawsuit in the justice court of the county where the rental property exists.
However, despite the idea that the tenant has "five days" to become current with the rent, the statute actually allows the tenant to become current up until the date that the special detainer lawsuit is filed. If the tenant pays the unpaid rent (and any reasonable late fee contained in the lease) before the lawsuit is filed, then lease remains in effect.
Even after the filing of the special detainer lawsuit, a tenant can "cure" and remain in possession if the tenant pays the following:
Arizona Five-Day Notice To Cure -- Violations That Can Be Corrected
Under § 33-1341, a tenant has certain obligations such as keeping the premises clean and safe, removing garbage, reasonable use of water and other utility, being reasonably quiet and not disturbing neighbors and other tenants.
If the tenant violates his or her obligations under § 33-1341, where "such materially impacts health and safety," the landlord can deliver a written 5-day notice to the tenant that lists the acts and/or omissions and that states the landlord is terminating the lease if the tenant does not cure or correct the violations. If the tenant remedies the violation(s) before the date specified, the lease continues as before. If the tenant does not remedy the violation(s), then the lease is terminated and the landlord can proceed to file an eviction action.
Other violations that can be cured are: falsification(s) of the tenant's rental application with respect to the number of occupants in the dwelling unit, pets, income, social security number and current employment.
Arizona Ten-Day Notice of Termination -- Second Violation -- No Cure
If there is a second violation or noncompliance of the same or a similar nature as the first five-day notice, the landlord may deliver a 10-Day Notice of Termination. The lease is terminated and the tenant has no opportunity to cure. If the tenant does not vacate, the landlord may file the special detainer lawsuit.
Arizona No-Day Notice of Termination -- Violations That Are Crimes
Under some circumstances, a no-day notice is available. If the tenant is or has committed various crimes in or on the rental property, § 33-1368(A)(2) allows the landlord to deliver a written notice for immediate termination of the lease and allows the landlord to proceed immediately to file for possession. The language in § 33-1368(A)(2) is: if the breach by the tenant is "both material and irreparable." The following non-exhaustive list is provided:
Material falsification of the tenant's rental application with respect to the tenant's criminal record, prior eviction record and current criminal activity is also considered "material and irreparable" allowing for a no-day notice of termination.
Arizona Hold Over Tenants -- No Notice Required
If the tenant holds over and remains in possession after the lease expires, a landlord can begin a lawsuit for possession immediately without notice. A.R.S. § 33-1375(C).
Arizona Other Notices -- No Leases, Week-to-Week And Month-to-Month
A 10-day notice is required to terminate a week-to-week rental. A 30-day notice is required for month-to-month leases. No-lease rentals are generally considered to be month-to-month. A.R.S. § 33-1375.
How Does A Landlord Give Notice?
Section 33-1313 specifies that the above-described notices are to be "delivered in hand to the tenant or mailed by registered or certified mail..." Moreover, if notice is mailed by registered or certified mail, the tenant is considered under the ARLTA to have received the notice when actually received or five days after the date the notice was mailed (whichever is earlier).
Step Two -- Prepare and File the Summons/Complaint
Special detainer suits are governed by A.R.S. § 33-1377. After expiration of the various days required for the notices (5-day or 10-day or no-day), the landlord may begin a lawsuit in the county where the property is located.
To file the lawsuit, a landlord or the landlord’s attorney must go to the county courthouse and file the following documents:
The filing fee is around $60.00 for the landlord (as of 2017). The complaint basically sets out information about the property, the landlord, must name all the persons on the lease and in possession, must set out terms of the lease (or attach a copy) and explain why the tenant is in violation and why the landlord is entitled to possession. The complaint also sets out what the landlord is requesting including unpaid rent, damages, a writ of restitution and anything else.
Step Three -- Serve The Summons And Complaint.
Service of summons and the complaint is necessary for two reasons: it gives notice to the tenant that a lawsuit has been filed and gives that date, time and place for his or her appearance and such is necessary for the court to gain “personal jurisdiction” over the tenant. Such personal jurisdiction gives the court power over the parties, the rental property and the power to make binding judicial orders. Arizona Constables can provide service of process for evictions.
After the tenant receives the summons, the complaint and an information sheet, he or she must go to the courthouse and file a written document called an answer. The answer allows the tenant to contest various information or facts provided by the landlord and otherwise explain why he or she should not be evicted. The Tenant may also counterclaim if the landlord has breached obligations owed by landlords under the ARLTA. The answer fee for the tenant is around $45.00.
Step Four -- Going to Eviction Court
When your eviction case is filed, a trial date is set. That date may be continued if there was no service of summons on the tenant and for other reasons, but the eviction process is expected to move quickly. Continuances are only granted for up to three days. On the trial date, you will appear with your attorney and will have documents and other evidence to show the judge why your tenant is in violation of the lease. You will also bring other witnesses if they help prove your case. If you are successful in proving your case, then the judge will issue a judgment in your favor awarding the following possible types of compensation pursuant to section 33-1368(C):
A copy of the judgment should be given to the tenant with an explanation that the tenant must move out. Normally a tenant has five calendar days after entry of judgment to move, but for evictions involving "irreparable breach" (crimes and similar violations) the tenant must move within 24 hours.
If your tenant does move out within the time provided, at your request and after paying the required fee, the clerk will issue a writ of restitution. For a sample writ of restitution, see here.
Step Five -- Having the Writ of Restitution Executed
Writs of restitution are executed by Arizona Constables. The filing fee for having a Writ of Restitution executed is around $110 plus applicable mileage. The constable will meet the landlord at the property, direct the tenant to leave -- forcibly if necessary -- and allow the landlord to secure the property (board up, change locks, etc.). The landlord can also cut off utility services the next day. A.R.S. § 33-1368D. If the tenant has left personal property in the unit, the landlord cannot dispose of or sell any of the tenant’s remaining personal property for 21 days. Rules regarding tenant's property are governed by A.R.S. §§ 33-1368E and 33-1370.
Once the writ of restitution has been executed and the locks have been changed, the eviction process is complete. If the tenant comes back onto or into the property without the landlord’s permission, the tenant is guilty of third degree criminal trespass and can be arrested and prosecuted accordingly.
If you need help evicting an Arizona tenant, it is important that you contact a talented and proven landlord eviction attorney. Every step in the process must be done correctly and according to the ARLTA and applicable rules of procedures. A mistake can result in delay; every day you are out of possession is another day you are not getting rent. Good eviction lawyers know how to get your tenant out and get them out as fast as possible. Contact an Arizona eviction attorney today.