Phoenix-area Renters Facing Eviction Could Get Help Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Article originally posted on AZ Central on March 19, 2020

Members of  the State of Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA) work responding to the coronavirus pandemic, in the DEMA operations center at the Arizona National Guard Papago Park Military Reservation in Phoenix on March 18, 2020.

Metro Phoenix renters facing eviction could stay in their homes until at least early April.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, Maricopa County Justice Courts have asked justices of the peace to delay eviction hearings.

Nearly 2,000 Valley residents are facing losing their homes to eviction now, according to court filings.

That number could jump quickly because a growing number of people are losing incomes as their workplaces close temporarily or they need to stay home with children since Arizona schools are closed.

“By law, eviction hearings are supposed to take place within five to 10 days of filing, but we are asking judges to continue or postpone cases because of the uncertainty with the coronavirus,” said Scott Davis, spokesman for the Maricopa Justice Courts.

The Arizona Supreme Court gave the courts authorization Monday night to suspend mandatory timelines on eviction hearings.

Eviction help

The Justice Courts asked justices of the peace to delay evictions until at least early April, but it will be up to the elected judges who handle the cases by region daily.

“We were already facing a housing crisis before this pandemic,” said Joan Serviss, executive director of the Arizona Housing Coalition. “This move by the courts will give people struggling more time to breathe.”

A record number of Maricopa County renters have been evicted by landlords during the past few years as rents hit record highs.

On Sunday, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said Phoenix will halt all financial evictions on city-owned housing.

“This is the responsible thing to do to ensure people have access to shelter and sanitation,” Gallego tweeted. “The state should ensure this protection is extended to all Arizonans during this uncertain time.”

Most Arizona rental properties are privately owned.

Landlord response

The state’s apartment industry group is asking all rental housing owners and managers to work with residents who may be facing eviction as a result of “COVID-19 related illness or reduced income.”

“We’re encouraging all rental residents to contract their rental owner or manager. Let them know as soon as you can that you may need rental assistance or a payment plan for April,” said Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus, CEO of the Arizona Multihousing Association. “No one wants to see people evicted amid a public health crisis.”

Chicago, Miami, Boston, Washington D.C., New York, New Orleans and Portland, Oregon have all moved to halt renter evictions due to the coronavirus.