On March 24, 2020, Governor Ducey issued an executive order postponing eviction actions in Arizona. The order stated that a tenant could not be evicted if COVID-19 had impacted their health or finances. However, landlords were permitted to continue requesting late rent payments and assessing fees against their tenants. According to the order, the moratorium on evictions will end on July 22. In many cases, the circumstances haven’t changed for these tenants, leaving many to ask, what will happen when the governor’s eviction order expires?
Some Arizona Lawmakers are Very Concerned
On June 22, 2020, Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Governor Ducey, urging him to extend the eviction moratorium by six months to January 22, 2021. The lawmakers stated that there is a concern that if the current order expires, thousands of Arizonians will become homeless across the state. They also site to the high bars imposed by the Arizona Department of Housing rental assistance program. Lawmakers noted that eviction orders have already been issued in Pima and Maricopa counties and are representative of a more significant wave to come. The result they fear will be thousands of people without homes being forced to congregate in shelters when medical experts advise social distancing. The letter also said, “Because many of these persons will themselves be sick with COVID-19 or be caring for a family member sick with the virus, to evict them from their homes and put them on the street or in congregate facilities provided by relief agencies will endanger the lives of others.”
Lawmakers also recognized that Arizona landlords are feeling the strain of going without rental income during this unprecedented time. They also asked the governor to hasten the state’s Rental Eviction Prevention Assistance program to support struggling property owners.
State Rental Assistance Programs Have Not Helped
According to a recent report, since March, only 962 out of the approximately 16,000 Arizonians who have applied for the Arizona Department of Housing’s (for up to $2000 a month) rental assistance program have been approved. The agency has yet to process 48% of the applications, and another 40% were considered incomplete. Essentially, 6% of all applications have been approved. Other claims were either denied or withdrawn. The state’s program has yet to provide citizens with meaningful relief, and the clock is ticking.
Some Counties are Ready to Evict Hundreds on July 23
In Pima County, where the courts started hearing eviction cases on June 1, 2020, there has been a concern that “preorders of eviction” are being granted in cases where tenants have COVID-19-related reasons for not paying rent. In these cases, landlords are bringing eviction actions, and courts are granting the requested relief. The tenants are allowed to stay after the judges have granted the evictions but, unless the tenants can pay their past due rent and fees, they will be evicted on July 23, 2020. With a preemptive eviction, tenants can be made homeless more efficiently. According to reports, many tenants were not aware of hearings or that they needed to notify their landlord in writing that they had a COVID-related reason for not paying their rent. Pima County has processed 783 eviction cases. Based on a sampling of those, eviction orders have issued in about 75 percent of the cases. In Maricopa County, during the same time frame, approximately 1,700 eviction orders have been issued. Although it’s unclear how many of these evictions are for COVID-related reasons, it’s concerning to consider the implications of thousands of people being simultaneously evicted on July 23, 2020.
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.