Whenever a tenant fails to pay rent or fails to comply with the material provision in the rental agreement, then the landlord can begin the Arizona eviction process by following the law and the rules set forth in the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. A landlord cannot initiate an eviction without following these specific steps without exposing him or herself to damages to the tenant. For example, a landlord cannot deny access to the tenant, shut off utilities, threaten the tenant, remove the tenant’s personal belongings or take other action to forcibly remove the tenant without first giving notice and then obtaining a court judgment and order.
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Arizona Landlords must first serve a notice to the tenant that complies with the Arizona eviction notice laws. In cases of nonpayment of rent, the landlord must serve a written 5-Day Notice to the tenant to pay the required rent or vacate the unit. The notice must state the amount of rent owed, that the tenant can remain in the property if the entire rent is paid by a certain date, and that a lawsuit will be filed if the tenant fails to comply by the termination date.
The 5-Day Notice is also used where there is material noncompliance with a specific lease provision that affects the health or safety of other tenants or with the community. This could include allowing the accumulation of trash on the property.
A 10-Day Notice is used if the tenant is in material noncompliance with a specific provision of the rental agreement, which must be specified in the notice. This includes having unauthorized persons or pets living in the unit or using the unit for purposes other than as a residence. The notice must advise the tenant that he or she can remedy the breach by complying by a certain date or a lawsuit to evict the tenant will ensue.
In situations where the tenant is responsible for causing substantial damage to the property or engages in unlawful behavior, the Arizona eviction notice need only be for 24 hours. Examples include operating a meth lab, inflicting serious bodily harm on someone, discharging firearms on the property, or substantially damaging the unit.
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Service of the Notice
An important step in the Arizona eviction process is proper service of the notice. A landlord may personally serve the tenant or a subtenant who is of sufficient age. If the tenant is absent, the notice may be affixed to the door of the unit as well as sent by certified or registered mail the same day. The landlord or whoever serves the tenant must document the service by drafting a written statement detailing the date, time and manner of service.
If the tenant is served by mail, he or she is given 10-days to remedy the default before the landlord can proceed with the next step so long as the tenant does not sign the Return Receipt Certification. Otherwise, the 5 days begins when the notice was mailed if the tenant does sign the Return Receipt. If the tenant does not sign, the landlord can verify mailing by obtaining a stamped Receipt for Certified Mail from the post office.
Forcible Detainer Action
Before undertaking an eviction action, the landlord should be sure that his or her obligations to the tenant have been met and that no reasonable defenses may be offered.
Once the period for curing the breach has passed, the landlord must file in the justice court a Summons and Complaint for Forcible Detainer and serve it promptly. The suit needs to name all persons named on the lease, request a writ of restitution, demand payment of all rent owed and court costs and attorney fees if applicable. A copy of the served notice and rental agreement should also be attached to the complaint and be served on the tenant. All Forcible Detainer complaints need to have the notarized signature of the landlord.
The complaint must be served at least 2 days before the trial date noted on the summons and be served by the constable or by a process server. The trial date noted on the summons is typically only 3-6 days after the complaint is filed so time is of the essence in serving the action.
Personal service must first be attempted although alternative service can be done the same day if the tenant or subtenant is absent. Alternative service is accomplished by affixing the summons and complaint to the unit’s door and mailing it by certified mail. The alternative method can be used if the trial date is at least 4 days from the date of filing and the alternative service is accomplished the same day as the filing. A copy of the affidavit attesting to service must be presented to the court.
The tenant must provide a written response and pay the filing fee or the court will issue a default judgment.
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Defenses to Arizona Eviction
The tenant may have a number of defenses available in an eviction suit, including the following:
- Partial rent payment was made
If the landlord accepted partial payment of the rent, he or she has waived the termination action unless a new written lease agreement is entered into with a new termination date if the remainder of the rent is not paid.
- Breach of landlord’s obligations
The landlord failed to remedy certain hazardous conditions or failed to provide a residence fit for habitation such as running water, heat, air conditioning, plumbing and sanitation. The tenant must have given written notice to the landlord to remedy the condition within 10-days or the tenant can vacate the apartment and force the landlord to pay for the tenant’s new rental costs and other damages in excess of the rent usually paid to the landlord until the condition is fixed. A tenant can perform self-repairs if the defect is under $300 or one-half of the monthly rent, whichever is higher, and deduct the cost from the rent.
- Retaliatory eviction
The landlord is evicting the tenant soon after the tenant complained about the unit or joined a tenant’s union.
- Discriminatory eviction
The landlord is evicting the tenant after discovering that the tenant is pregnant, is from a particular foreign country, practices a certain religion or is now disabled and requires a reasonable accommodation at the landlord’s expense such as a wheelchair ramp to enter and exit the unit.
- Payment of rent
If the tenant pays the entire rent owed along with applicable late fees, court and attorney’s fees before the trial, the eviction action is terminated. The rent will probably have to be paid in cash or certified check.
If the tenant fails to appear, the court will order a default judgment for the landlord and award money damages if requested. If the tenant does appear, the landlord must provide sufficient proof of compliance with the Arizona eviction notice and other laws. This includes providing copies of the following:
- Rental lease
- Notice to vacate
- Proof of service of notice to vacate
- Proof of service of summons and complaint
- Written documentation of failure to pay rent or witness testimony to this effect
- Documentary or testimonial evidence of material noncompliance with the rental agreement
Writ of Restitution
The tenant should be given a copy of the judgement and asked to leave. If the tenant refuses, the landlord needs to obtain a writ of restitution, which may not be issued until 6 days after judgment is rendered. The writ is the last step in the Arizona eviction process.
The writ must be given to the sheriff or law enforcement agency who are the only ones authorized to forcibly remove the tenant. A landlord is permitted at this stage to change the locks and to shut off utilities as well as to remove any of the tenant’s personal belongings.
If the tenant has left personal possessions on the property, the landlord should inventory the items. The Landlord must store them and give notice to the tenant that he or she has 21-days to claim the property or the landlord will sell the items. Any funds recovered in excess of the rent and damages owed must be returned to the tenant. The tenant is also responsible for paying any storage and removal costs before the items are returned.
Arizona Eviction and Landlord Resource
Here is a helpful guide from the University of Arizona that is all about the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. Here is the actual Arizona Landlord and Tenant Act which is not so user-friendly or easy to read. If you are an Arizona Landlord that needs to evict a tenant, you can get an Arizona Eviction Notice here.