What is an Eviction?
Eviction cases in Arizona are called Special Detainer Actions or Forcible Entry and Detainer. It is when a landlord says a tenant has not done something that is spelled out in the lease or rental agreement and the landlord wants the tenant to leave so that s/he can take the rental property back under the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (ARLTA). Most eviction actions happen when the tenant has not paid rent on time.
The Eviction Process for Unpaid Rent
- Notice is the first step in the eviction process.
- Notice must be in writing and given in person or by certified mail to the tenant.
- The landlord can give notice to the tenant that he will terminate the lease if the rent is not paid within five days.
- On day six, the landlord can file suit. The tenant’s inability to pay the rent is not a legal defense to the lawsuit.
If the landlord accepts a part of the total amount owed after the five day notice is served, the landlord will need to get a written waiver signed by the tenant that allows the landlord to keep going with the eviction if the rest of the amount owed is not paid. Without the written waiver, the landlord gives up the right to end the rental agreement for non-payment of rent during the month. A.R.S. § 33-1371.
Options for the Tenant
- The tenant has the right to reinstate the rental agreement by paying the rent due, in full, and any reasonable late fees set out in the lease. Taking this action will avoid eviction if done before the complaint is filed.
- The tenant has the right to reinstate the rental agreement after the complaint has been filed but before a judgment is entered by paying the rent due, in full, any reasonable late fees set out in the lease, the landlord’s costs and attorney fees. If the tenant does so before a judgment is entered, he can avoid eviction.
- The tenant does not have a right to reinstate the rental agreement after a judgment has been entered. The landlord has sole discretion over this.
As a general rule, the only defense to an allegation of nonpayment of rent is that the rent was actually paid, in the manner and in the amount provided in the lease. In order to better protect your rights, keep copies of all payments and notices exchanged between your landlord and yourself. Additionally, require your landlord to put all agreements in a writing s/he signs and dates. If you think you will have a problem, try to get additional evidence, such as witnesses or photographs. . If you receive an eviction notice, you are encouraged to seek legal assistance as soon as possible.