Eviction, or forcible detainer as it is known in Arizona, is the process by which a landlord reclaims property that is being wrongfully withheld by a tenant. There are several reasons a landlord may do this, perhaps the tenant has not paid rent, or has engaged in criminal activity on the property. Or perhaps the tenant has failed to vacate after the lease has expired. Regardless of the reason, the process behind obtaining a judgment in a forcible detainer action is relatively the same. Arizona Revised Statutes §§12-1171 and 33-361 are the primary statutes governing evictions. Additionally, there is a separate set of Arizona Rules of Procedure for Eviction Actions and the Arizona Residential Landlord Tenant Act as well. All these resources may tell a landlord how to proceed with an eviction, but not necessarily what to expect. Hopefully this article will shed some light on that question.
Most eviction actions are filed in the Justice Court Division in Arizona. There are 27 different justice court locations in Maricopa County. It is important that the eviction action be filed in the correct court. The appropriate court location can be determined by entering the property address that is the subject of the eviction at https://recorder.maricopa.gov/pollingplace/getdistrict.aspx. This is different from other cases where the appropriate location may be where the Plaintiff lives. Once the appropriate location is found, it’s time to file the summons and complaint. Please note, there are requirements that must be met prior to filing the summons and complaint, these are dealt with in a previous blog article When Can I Evict A Tenant.
Once the complaint has been prepared, it must be filed in the appropriate location as described above. There is a filing fee of $61.00 that must also be paid. After the complaint has been filed, the hearing will generally be set fairly quickly. In most cases it will be within one week of the filing date, if not sooner. At least two days prior to the hearing the summons and complaint filed with the court must be served on the tenants. Because this is such a quick turnaround it is usually best to have a process server available to serve the tenants immediately. It is also advisable to have the process server post a copy of the summons and complaint at the address and to send an additional copy of the summons and complaint via certified mail return receipt requested at the same time. Although this is a bit more work it is important to get proper service in advance of the hearing.
On the day of the hearing there will generally be many other landlords and tenants in the courtroom. The magistrate or justice of the peace presiding will call the cases up one by one. If the tenant fails to show up, and the landlord has the papers in order, the landlord may get a default judgment. If the tenant shows up, but has no basis to object and does not pay all amounts due, the court may also enter a judgment. However if the tenant disputes the eviction, the court may hold a trial on the matter. It could be held at that time or set for a later date, but it is important to be prepared to move forward on the first hearing. After a judgment is issued, the court will set a date to issue a writ of restitution if the tenant still has not vacated. A writ of restitution is where the Sherriff or Constable will go to the property and remove the tenants. It is usually advisable to have a locksmith available at the same time to change the locks on the property.
Once the writ has issued the process is complete. There are still other responsibilities of the landlord not discussed in this article however. If you have a tenant you believe is not following the lease, and you would like more information regarding eviction, it is important to talk with an experienced attorney regarding all available options before deciding. Platt & Westby has offices in Phoenix, Arrowhead, Litchfield Park, Scottsdale and Gilbert Arizona. Contact our office by calling 602-277-4441 or visit www.plattwestby.com to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.