What Happens in an Eviction?
You may hear an Eviction Action called a Forcible Detainer. Either phrase refers to a landlord's desire for one of two outcomes:
- to force the tenant to pay the rent
- to force the tenant to move
These are the two parts to an eviction case: the request for money and the request for possession of the property. Sometimes all it takes is the threat of an eviction for a tenant to pay. Sometimes tenants cannot pay because of extraordinary circumstances.
A landlord might file an eviction case for any reason. A judge will review the case and give both the landlord and tenant the opportunity to explain their side and the judge will issue a verdict. Alternately, the judge or the landlord or the tenant may call for a trial and then issue a verdict after that.
But a few things must happen first.
Eviction Laws and Rules
There are two sets of laws which govern rentals in Arizona. If the lease is for an apartment, house or mobile home, then from the Arizona Revised Statutes it is Chapter 33, sections 1301 - 1377 which apply. If the lease is for a space in a mobile home park, then it is still Chapter 33, but sections 1401 - 1501.
These are the pieces of the Landlord-Tenant Act. There is one version for mobile home parks and another for all other rental units. The Arizona Department of Housing maintains and publishes the Arizona Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. It is free to download and tells landlords and tenants what their obligations are to each other, and the steps each side must take to correct a problem without going to court.
Beyond that, the Arizona Supreme Court developed the Arizona Rules of Procedure for Eviction Actions. These are the guidelines for how evictions cases are to be processed in court.
You may find more information and sample forms on our Obligations and Remedies page.
The "Notice" period
Before most eviction cases may be filed, the landlord must give the tenant Notice of the intent to do so. This notice must tell the tenant what the problem is and what can be done to fix it. If it is not remedied with the given time, the landlord may then file the lawsuit.
- For non-payment of rent or a breach affecting health and safety (such as broken glass, excess debris, waste) the notice must come five days before the case is filed.
- For a material breach (such as violating complex rules, having unauthorized pets or guests, etc) the notice must be ten days.
- For an irreparable breach (such as criminal activity, threatening and intimidating, etc) the notice is called immediate and may be served upon the tenant at the same time as the complaint and summons.
In the first two scenarios above, the tenant may remedy the problem (pay or fix) within that notice period and no case will be filed with the court.
Once the notice period expires and a case is filed, the costs to the tenant go up.
When a Case is Filed
Once the landlord files the eviction complaint, things may move quickly. The court will issue a summons which gives all the parties the date for the eviction hearing. This date must be at least 3 but no more than 6 days after the filing date.
Nearly all eviction cases will be heard virtually. This means you may participate by phone or video, without setting foot inside the physical courtroom. You do have the option to come in person if you wish. Read the summons from the court. It will tell you how to access the hearing. If you wish to participate in a different manner than what is listed, contact the court immediately to receive appropriate directions.
Most landlords are represented in court by an attorney. Tenants may also have an attorney but most choose to speak up for themselves.
Until the moment the judge renders a verdict, the tenant may still avoid eviction by fixing the breach or paying the amount in the complaint. At this stage the amount will likely include rent, late fees, attorney's fees and court costs. Paying will prevent an eviction from appearing on a tenant's record.
It may be in a tenant's best interest to file an answer to the eviction complaint. There is no charge for this. Filing an answer may help the tenant with developing a valid defense.
What Happens in Court
The justice courts hear hundreds of evictions every day. As a result, you may have a wait (generally no more than one hour) until your case is called.
Once the judge begins, he or she will ask the landlord (or attorney) the basis for the eviction and verify that the necessary paperwork is present. The judge will then ask the tenant if they agree that they owe the money or committed the other breach.
This is not the time for the tenant to explain why the rent was not paid or why a breach occurred. The law does not make allowances for a judge to dismiss a case out of kindness. It is very clear what has to happen.
This is where the tenant should explain why the complaint may be incorrect or find fault with the process. For example, the rent was paid, there were no dogs on the property, or there was not proper notice. In general, this kind of defense is the only valid defense to an eviction case.
If the judge finds the tenant guilty, the eviction judgment will be signed. Generally, a tenant then has five days to move out.
What Happens After Court
Sometimes a landlord may agree to give the tenant another chance to pay and stay, even after a judgment. It is the landlord's option.
Important: tenants vacating a property should return the keys to the office. Do not leave them in the apartment/home and do not put them in the mail. Until the landlord has the keys, the tenant is still considered to be in possession and further rent may accrue.
If the tenant has to move and does not, the landlord may obtain a Writ of Restitution from the court. This is an order telling the constable to remove the tenant from the unit and possibly change the locks.
On this day the constable may give the tenant a little time to finish the move, but he/she cannot cancel the Writ or refuse to serve it. It must be enforced.
Eviction on Your Record
How does an eviction appear on a tenant's record?
Courts do not report judgments to credit agencies. However, landlords may. Credit reporting agencies also purchase court data to build their databases. If that data includes an eviction judgment, then anyone doing an official background check may find that on a tenant's record.
There are a few ways to ensure that does not happen. Arizona law now requires eviction records be sealed when:
- the case is dismissed prior to a judgment,
- the case is decided in favor of the tenant, or
- the landlord and tenant stipulate (agree) to set aside the judgment. A Motion to Set Aside must be filed with the court to start this process.
The sealing procedure will take place automatically once any of these three conditions are met.
Fees in Eviction Filings
|Complaint and Summons||$63|
|Answer to Complaint||No charge|
|Writ of Restitution (including minimum mileage)||$115|
|Notice of Appeal (includes transmittal and copies)||$84|
|Other documents where fee is not specified||$28|
|Copies||$ .50 per page|
|Certification of documents||$28|
Where To Find Help
Landlord not making repairs? Tenant causing disruptions? Visit the Obligations and Remedies page for detailed information and sample forms to bring either side into compliance or break the lease.
Struggling to pay your rent? Use the rental assistance tool from the Arizona Department of Economic Security to see where you may apply for help. No matter what city or town you live in, funding may be available.
There are private attorneys who will represent eviction defendants for a fee. Free or low-cost help may also be available for low-income tenants through Community Legal Services.
VIDEO: The Arizona Supreme Court, Maricopa County Justice Courts, and other partners developed a series of videos and information sheets to guide you through the eviction process. The eviction portal is at www.azcourts.gov/eviction in English, and at www.azcourts.gov/desalojo in Spanish.