Landlords in Arizona can’t just change the locks, toss your belongings out on the front yard, or shut down essential utilities. A landlord must follow the eviction process in order to have a tenant evicted for any reason. Here's an overview of what this means for tenants in Arizona.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated December 22, 2021
If you rent in Arizona and are facing eviction, please continue reading. This article can help you if your landlord is currently threatening to evict you or if you just think you may not be able to make your next rent payment. We’ll discuss when your landlord can evict you and what the process looks like. We’ll also provide some information about fighting eviction and what happens after your landlord gets a court order to evict you.
What Is Eviction?
Eviction is the legal process landlords use to remove tenants from a rental property. In Arizona, an eviction lawsuit is called a special detainer action. Typically, landlords must have a court order to remove a tenant. Otherwise, removing the tenant is an illegal eviction or illegal lockout. This includes forcibly removing the tenant or their possessions or turning off essential services like electricity, gas, or water.
Arizona has only one process for all residential evictions.
Who Can Be Evicted in Arizona?
An eviction can only occur if a landlord-tenant relationship exists. Generally, a tenant is someone who has made an agreement with a landlord to rent a residential unit like a house or apartment from the landlord. This agreement can be in writing or made verbally. Landlords can also evict anyone living with a tenant even if they’re not on the lease.
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Why Can Someone Be Evicted in Arizona?
There are three common reasons that landlords evict tenants.
The tenant is late or behind on rent.
The tenant violates a lease term other than the requirement to pay rent on time.
The lease expires and isn’t renewed, but the tenant remains on the property.
Under Arizona law, tenants get a period to comply when a landlord gives them notice for breaching a term of the lease or failing to pay rent.
If a landlord evicts you for failing to pay rent, you have five days to comply with the notice before the landlord proceeds with the eviction.
If you violate a term of the lease, you have 10 days.
If you’re engaging in an activity that materially threatens anyone’s health and safety, the notice period is five days.
If you are a holdover tenant and remain on the property willfully and in bad faith, a landlord can file an action to evict you immediately.
Late, Short, or Behind on Rent?
If you’re a tenant in Arizona, you can’t withhold rent for any reason. If you haven’t paid your rent by the due date and you fail to pay it within five days of receiving a written notice of nonpayment from the landlord, the landlord can terminate the rental agreement by filing an eviction lawsuit. So if you’re one day late paying rent, and the landlord gives you notice in writing of nonpayment, they can sue to evict you on the sixth day.
Lease Expiration or Termination
In Arizona, a landlord can evict a tenant after terminating the lease for breaching a lease term. In effect, the landlord alleges that the tenant has forfeited the right to live in the property even if the tenant is current on paying rent. If the lease expires, the tenant’s right to possess and use the property also expires.
Landlords can evict tenants when the lease expires and the tenant remains on the property. In this case, the parties have failed to extend the current lease or negotiate a new lease with new lease terms. The landlord may bring an action for possession (the eviction lawsuit) after the lease expires if the tenant remains without the landlord's consent.
Landlords in Arizona can terminate a lease before it expires if the tenant substantially breaches the rental agreement. An example would be failing to maintain the property to the extent that it harms or devalues the rental unit. If a tenant breaches the lease in this way, the landlord must give them a written notice that:
Explains the breach, and
States that the landlord will terminate the rental agreement no less than 10 days after the tenant receives the notice if the tenant doesn’t remedy the breach in that time.
The Arizona Eviction Process
Arizona landlords must file a special detainer action to evict residential tenants who breach their lease or fail to pay rent. Special detainer actions can only be used for tenants with residential leases. The Maricopa County Justice Courts handle most of Arizona’s eviction cases. The following is a basic overview of the general process in Arizona for residential evictions.
What does a landlord have to do to begin an eviction?
Your landlord must give you notice before they file an eviction action with the court. The amount of required notice under Arizona law depends on the reason for eviction.
Failure to pay rent: 5-day notice.
Lease violation: 10-day notice.
If you’re engaging in an activity that materially threatens anyone’s health and safety: 5- day notice.
Holdover tenants: No notice required.
The landlord can’t file an eviction lawsuit (special detainer action) if you remedy the issue within the notice period.
In the common case of nonpayment of rent, if you pay all past-due rent and any reasonable late fee stated in the written rental agreement within five days of receiving the landlord’s notice, they can’t evict you for nonpayment of rent. But if you don’t pay within five days and your landlord files a special detainer action, they’re only required to reinstate the rental agreement if you pay all past-due rent, reasonable late fees stated in a written rental agreement, attorney fees, and court costs. After a judgment has been entered in the landlord’s favor, they get to decide if they want to reinstate the lease or not.
If your lease expires and you don’t leave, you’re a holdover tenant. If your holdover is willful and not in good faith, your landlord may be entitled to damages if they win the lawsuit. If so, they can recover up to two months' rent or twice the actual damages your landlord sustained, whichever is greater.
What happens once the eviction action is filed with the court?
After the required notice period has passed, if you haven’t fixed the issue, the landlord can start the eviction action in court by filing a complaint. The court will issue a summons on the day the landlord files their complaint. The summons commands you to appear at an eviction hearing and answer the complaint at a time and place named in the summons. The eviction hearing must be held 3-6 days after the summons is issued.
As the tenant, you’re considered to have received the summons:
Three days after the summons is mailed if your landlord attempts to personally serve you under Arizona law, or
Within one day of the summons being issued if a copy of the summons is visibly posted on the main entrance of your residence on the same day it’s also sent by certified mail with a return receipt requested to your last known address.
If the landlord alleges in their complaining that you’ve substantially and irreparably breached the lease, the court must issue the summons as it normally would. But the court must set the trial date and return date for the tenant’s answer no later than the third day following the filing of the complaint.
You must file an answer to your landlord’s complaint. If you need more time to prepare for the trial and you can show good cause for this, you can file an affidavit with the court. The trial may be postponed for up to three days in an Arizona justice court or five days in an Arizona superior court.
At the trial, both you and your landlord can present evidence and explain your side of the story. Then the court will determine whether you have the right to stay in the rental unit. The court may also assess any damages, attorney fees, and costs related to late payment of rent or breach of the lease. You must answer the complaint and attend this court date or the court is likely to award a default judgment to your landlord. This means you lose the case and your landlord can evict you.
Telling Your Side of the Story: Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaims
At the trial, you’ll have a chance to tell your side of the story and to raise any defenses or counterclaims you may have. An affirmative defense is one that states that the landlord’s claims are true, but that your actions were justified. If you successfully raise an affirmative defense, you can stop the eviction.
You can also assert any counterclaims against your landlord when answering an eviction lawsuit. A counterclaim isn’t a defense but a claim in itself that entitles you to some remedy. This will put the burden on your landlord to disprove these claims if you prove them successfully.
Tenants commonly raise affirmative defenses and counterclaims about the property’s poor conditions. You may want to raise the issue if your landlord violated an obligation under the lease or Arizona law. You can also claim that your landlord violated the implied warranty of habitability. In Arizona, an implied warranty of habitability means that a landlord guarantees that the dwelling unit is fit for human habitation if there is an agreement orally or in writing to rent a dwelling unit.
Defenses & Counterclaims Related to a Landlord’s Failure To Supply Essential Services
If your landlord negligently or deliberately fails to supply an essential service (heat, water, gas, a/c, etc.), under Arizona law you can:
Obtain those services and deduct the cost for them from the rent. You may also be entitled to recover damages for the decrease of the unit’s fair rental value if you bring a counterclaim in an eviction hearing.
Find other substitute housing, discontinue paying rent, and charge the landlord for the difference between the rent and the cost of substitute housing, so long as it doesn’t exceed 25% of the rent.
In addition to actual damages, Arizona law entitles tenants to money damages for mental suffering, anguish, discomfort, or annoyance caused by a landlord’s failure to maintain the leased property in a fit and habitable condition. Landlords in Arizona may be held liable for all damages a tenant suffers if they fail to maintain the premises in a habitable condition, including damages for inconvenience and annoyance.
If you feel your landlord hasn’t met their duties, you can always get legal advice from a tenant's rights attorney to help you understand your potential defenses or counterclaims.
What Happens After an Eviction Trial?
If your landlord wins the eviction case, the court will award them a judgment in the form of a writ of restitution. Arizona courts must wait five calendar days after the judgment is signed before issuing a writ of restitution unless there is a material and irreparable breach of the lease. If the court finds that you’ve breached the lease in a substantial and irreparable way, it will issue this writ 12-24 hours after the hearing. A sheriff or constable can execute the writ as soon as they receive it, which would cause you to move as soon as the writ is delivered or posted.
If the court finds you guilty of failing to pay rent or of breaching the lease, it will award a judgment for the landlord. The judgment will not only allow the landlord to reclaim the property, it may also require you to pay late charges stated in the rental agreement, the landlord’s court and eviction costs, and, at the landlord's option, all rent found to be due and unpaid.
If you’re found not guilty of failing to pay rent or breaching the lease, the court will award you a judgment against the landlord for costs. If the landlord has retaken possession of the premises since the beginning of the eviction lawsuit, the court will issue you a writ of restitution. This allows you to return to the premises.
Once a landlord has been awarded a judgment, the only way you can remain in the rental unit is by negotiating an agreement with the landlord or filing an appeal of the judgment. Make sure that any post-judgment agreements you make with your landlord are in writing and signed by the landlord. Keep a copy of any agreement.
Filing an Appeal
If you appeal a judgment, you can delay the execution of either the judgment for possession or any judgment for money damages by filing a bond with the court. This is called a stay of execution. To do this, you’ll have you pay your rent money to the court while the appeal process is pending. The stay is effective when the bond or bonds (for rent money as well as other costs and attorney fees) are filed. As a tenant, you must continue to pay rent money to the clerk of the justice court, on or before each due date outlined in the lease.
Practical Tips for Tenants Facing Eviction in Arizona
If you’re struggling to pay rent, you can look into rent payment delay options, which can help you remain on the leased premises longer and potentially avoid eviction.
Here are a few other tips to help you deal with eviction:
You’ll need to present evidence supporting any affirmative defenses or counterclaims that you have against your landlord. This evidence includes written documentation, photographs, and videos that support your allegations about the property's uninhabitable condition and the landlord’s failure to meet its obligations. You can even ask a county or municipal building inspector to visit the property and make an official report about its condition.
If you can’t appear in court for any scheduled court appearance, contact the court and request a continuance.
It's important to maintain a good relationship and to communicate with your landlord. This can help you avoid eviction. An eviction action can damage your rental history and prevent you from renting in the future.
If your landlord brings an eviction action against you, see if you can negotiate a settlement to pay the unpaid rent and stay on the property. Always make sure that any agreement with your landlord is in writing and signed by your landlord.
Tenant Resources in Arizona
The following is a list of links to nonprofit and governmental organizations providing free statewide assistance programs to Arizona tenants.
Rental Assistance & Eviction Prevention Programs by Arizona County:
COVID-19 Eviction Information for Tenants in Arizona:
Arizona Judicial Branch's COVID-19 Emergency Eviction Procedures and Assistance
Arizona Department of Economic Security’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program
Emergency Rental Assistance information from the U.S. Dept. of the Treasury
Emergency rental assistance information for Maricopa County
Emergency rental assistance information for the City of Phoenix