More Help Arrives for Arizona Renters Facing Eviction and Landlords Who Don’t Shut Them Out

Article originally posted on AZ Central on March 25, 2020

Arizona Army National Guard Spc. Owen Mayotte assembles a food box on March 25, 2020, at the St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix.

More Phoenix-area renters struggling to avoid eviction during the coronavirus crisis will get automatic reprieves.

Other Valley renters who can’t make their payments because they are sick or their incomes have dropped can request court delays or telephone hearings.

The $50 million in emergency funding approved by the Legislature late Monday to help the homeless and renters facing eviction also will help.

And on Monday, the federal government announced a plan to help landlords that don’t evict tenants due the health and economic crisis.

“In Arizona, because of our short (eviction) timelines, aid to individuals is not coming quickly enough,” said Pamela Bridge, director of Advocacy and Litigation at Community Legal Services. “We had an eviction crisis before COVID-19.”

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Delaying eviction hearings

More than half of the 26 Valley justices hearing evictions in Maricopa County have agreed to automatically delay them in some way until the end of March or longer, according to new research from the Maricopa County Justice Courts.

That’s up from eight justices agreeing to delay evictions late last week.

The justices have said they will hold hearings on time in person or by phone as well as take request for delays.

“Some of our courts have a low eviction volume and would not need to modify procedures as much as other courts,” said Scott Davis, spokesman for the Maricopa Justice Courts. “All courts are accepting motions for continuances and for telephonic appearances. Those are being granted liberally.”

Help for renters

The Arizona Supreme Court gave the courts authorization last week to suspend mandatory timelines on eviction hearings. By law, eviction hearings are supposed to take place within five to 10 days of filing.

Almost 2,500 Valley renter households are now facing losing their homes to eviction now, according to court filings.

That number is expected to climb as more people get sick or lose income because of the coronavirus crisis.

The $50 million Arizona relief package to address the coronavirus crisis will provide more help for the homeless, fund food bank operations and prevent evictions and foreclosures in the state.

The federal government announced a new plan Monday to help landlords who fall behind on mortgage payments if they don’t evict renters.

Last week, HUD announced it was suspending evictions on HUD properties, but that helps only a small group in Arizona.

 

Valley courts delaying evictions

Here are the justices who have agreed to automatically halt or delay evictions in some way, and the number of pending eviction filings in their courts.

  • Arcadia Biltmore Justice Leonore Driggs, 143 cases.
  • Desert Ridge Justice Cathy Riggs, 87 cases.
  • Downtown Justice Enrique Medina, 83 cases.
  • Dreamy Draw Justice Frank Conti, 98 cases.
  • East Mesa Justice Keith Russell, 91 cases.
  • Encanto Justice Ken Cheuvront, 121 cases.
  • Ironwood Justice Ironwood Joe Getzwiller, 0 cases.
  • Kyrene Justice Sharron Sauls, 177 cases.
  • McDowell Mountain Justice Michelle Reagan, 76 cases.
  • Moon Valley Justice Andrew Hettinger, 192 cases.
  • San Marcos Justice Jay Tibshraeny, 127 cases.
  • San Tan Justice Sam Goodman, 44 cases.
  • South Mountain Cody Williams, 79 cases.
  • University Lakes Justice Tyler Kissell, 60 cases.
  • West McDowell Justice Teresa Lopez, 78 cases.
  • West Mesa Justice Elaissia Sears, 142 cases.

“In light of the Arizona Supreme Court’s Administrative Order and the information coming out of the Federal Government, the Arizona State Government and Maricopa County, there is a legal and moral basis for these decisions,” Sears said about the eviction delays.

Other eviction court plans

Here are the justices who have indicated evictions will continue generally on schedule, but renters can ask for telephone hearings and request delays. Most have smaller eviction caseloads than the justices automatically delaying them.

  • Agua Fria Justice Joe “Pep” Guzman, 24 cases.
  • Arrowhead Justice Craig Wismer, 52 cases.
  • Country Meadows Justice Anna Huberman, 130 cases.
  • Hassayampa Justice Miles Keegan, 57 cases.
  • Highland Justice Steve Urie, 53 cases.
  • Manistee Justice Donald Watts, 170 cases.
  • Maryvale Justice Andy Gastelum, 132 cases.
  • North Mesa Justice Kyle Jones, 78 cases.
  • North Valley Justice Gerald Williams, 94 cases.
  • White Tank Justice David Osterfeld, 59 cases.

Help for landlords

U.S. landlords with government-backed mortgages can now fall behind on payments without penalty if they suspend evictions related to the coronavirus crisis.

Federally-owned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will give owners of multifamily apartments a reprieve on their mortgage payments if they have renters who can’t afford their monthly payments due to the pandemic.

“Renters should not have to worry about being evicted from their home, and property owners should not have to worry about losing their building,” said Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria said a the statement.

More details on the plan are expected to be announced later.

“No one wants to see people evicted amid a public health crisis,” said Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus, CEO of the Arizona Multihousing Association.

But she said while renters may struggle, apartment owners must continue to pay mortgages, utilities, insurance and other costs, so a bigger solution to the problem is needed.

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