Will the Arizona High Court Overturn the Eviction Moratorium?

Will the Arizona High Court Overturn the Eviction Moratorium

When Governor Ducey issued the state?s eviction moratorium on March 24, in response to COVID-19, no one could have predicted how long it would be needed. When the moratorium was extended to continue protecting certain renters until October 31, 2020, some Arizona landlords decided the state had gone too far. These rental owners now claim that the moratorium is unconstitutional and violates their right to contract with tenants. The question is, will the Arizona high court overturn the eviction moratorium?

Rental Owners v. The State of Arizona

According to a recent report, the Arizona Multihousing Association, the Manufactured Housing Communities of Arizona, and several property owners have filed suit requesting that the Arizona Supreme Court invalidate the state?s eviction moratorium. The parties to the action argue that Arizona’s eviction moratorium has forced ?many of the state?s rental property owners to provide free housing for at least 221 days and that violates the separation of powers imposed by the Arizona Constitution.? The suit also argues the governor?s action violated the state constitution?s contract clause on 920,000 rental agreements. Additionally, the groups alleged that the moratorium violates state law by usurping legislative authority and interfering with private rental contracts. Property owners also claim that the action has improperly created an illegal economic welfare program rather than responding to a public health crisis.

The Landlord?s Perspective

Arizona Multihousing Association (AMA) CEO Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus recently stated that the moratorium created “a rent holiday for thousands of renters, while property owners still have a mortgage, taxes, and bills to pay ? including utility bills for many residents who are paying no rent.” She also said that ?[o]ur members are in the housing business. No one wants to see anyone evicted, especially during a pandemic.? ?But after five months of the state doing almost nothing to help property owners, we are at a breaking point.?

Landlord Support has Been Too Little, Too Late

Although tens of millions in state, federal, and municipal funds have been devoted to programs to support struggling tenants, actions to help landlords have not come swiftly or in near these amounts. Further, critics argue that what funding there is to help Arizona rental property owners will not be near enough to help cover their losses. For example, recently, the state instituted a $5 million fund to assist landlords impacted by the pandemic. However, according to a recent report, Arizona economist Elliot Pollack found in a new study that if only 1% of Arizona?s rental households failed to pay rent during the seven-month eviction moratorium, it would cost property owners $87 million in lost rent and fees.

The Renter?s Perspective

Housing advocates argue that the moratorium is necessary to prevent thousands of renters from losing their homes while awaiting aid. However, these groups are also concerned that red tape prevents tenants from accessing the funds they need to pay property owners. According to a recent report, the state has received more than 20,000 requests for nearly $11 million in assistance from two available state funds. However, only 7% of those applications have been approved, and only $2 million in aid has been delivered.

Prior Challenges Have Been Rejected

Similar challenges have been raised in other state supreme courts throughout the country without success. There has also been a prior Arizona lawsuit wherein a property owner unsuccessfully argued in Maricopa County Superior Court that the moratorium unconstitutionally denied her the right to evict non-paying tenants from her rental.

The Federal Moratorium May Delay the Decision

The recent federal eviction moratorium complicates the issue. The federal order overrides the state?s deadline extending the moratorium to 2021. Further, it?s easier to qualify for the federal moratorium than Arizona?s stay. Additionally, even if Arizona?s high court were to take up the issue this year, it?s unlikely anything could change for the state?s renters or property owners until after the federal moratorium expires.

Laura B. Bramnick is an experienced Arizona real estate attorney who can help you manage all aspects of your Arizona real estate matter. If you are seeking an exceptional, client-driven real estate lawyer in Scottsdale, Phoenix, Sedona, and throughout the State of Arizona, contact Laura B. Bramnick to schedule your consultation.



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