Open law book with wooden judges gavel on table in a courtroom

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a variety of moratoriums on residential evictions. But unless something changes, after December 31, ordinary landlord-tenant law will begin again. In short, tenants who have not paid their rent will once again face being evicted.    

On March 24, Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order directing that constables postpone enforcing writs of restitution (physical eviction orders) after an eviction judgment if the tenant had been impacted by COVID-19. It was extended with more specific and different criteria, but it expired on October 31.

President Donald Trump on March 27 signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It included a 120-day moratorium on evictions for residential tenants who received federal housing assistance or who lived in a property with a federally backed mortgage. It expired on July 25. 

In response to Congress doing nothing after the CARES Act expired, on September 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a ban blocking residential evictions for nonpayment of rent until after December 31. To seek protection under it, qualifying residential tenants need only to sign a declaration form. 

Tenants who either owe rent or will have trouble paying this month’s rent need to contact their landlord immediately and see whether some type of partial payment agreement can be made. Any agreement that is made should be in writing. Most landlords have forms for this purpose.

City of Phoenix residents should also contact the Tenants Eviction Assistance Project (TEAP) at 602-385-8880. People there can provide no-cost legal assistance to help tenants with eviction issues. 

Tenants are not the only people who have been hurting during the pandemic. While landlords are often perceived as unsympathetic villains, they have a right to expect that a tenant will honor their lease agreement. Some landlords have not received a full month’s rent since February. 

There is one other major issue. According to one report, many tenants in Arizona may have been evicted in violation of the CARES Act. This could happen if either a landlord or their attorney did not realize that the rental property in question had a federally backed mortgage. While something like that should be easy to determine, it is more difficult than it should be, and attorneys often must rely on information obtained from their clients.

If you think you may have been illegally evicted when the CARES Act was in place (March 27 to July 25), you should contact Community Legal Services at 602-258-3434. The legal process involves a motion requesting that the eviction judgment be set aside and/or a lawsuit for an unlawful ouster. Forms for both are available by contacting the North Valley Justice Court at 602-372-2000.

Contrary to popular belief, landlords don’t want to evict tenants. Doing so almost always causes landlords to lose money. If you are having trouble paying your rent, contact your landlord sooner rather than later. Nobody wants to start the new year with a knock on their door from a constable.

Judge Gerald Williams is the justice of the peace for the North Valley Justice Court. His column appears monthly in The Foothills Focus.