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The COVID-19 global pandemic has resulted in widespread economic hardship. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and those who are renters have been unable to pay their landlords. Countless evictions nationwide are sure to follow. We’ve already discussed some of these immediate ramifications facing renters in a recent post that helps you better understand what’s to follow when Governor Ducey’s residential eviction protection order expires later this month. From the perspective of the landlord, though, it’s a different story.

Arizona law dictates that landlords can file a forcible detainer lawsuit against tenants who have not paid rent, as on-time payments are a renter’s obligation as outlined in a standard lease agreement.

Per Arizona Revised Statutes Property 33-1368, “The landlord may recover all reasonable damages resulting from noncompliance by the tenant with the rental agreement or section 33-1341 or occupancy of the dwelling unit, court costs, reasonable attorney fees and all quantifiable damage caused by the tenant to the premises.”

If a tenant has breaches an Arizona lease in 2020, this is what to expect.

What Is a Forcible Detainer Lawsuit in Arizona?

A forcible detainer lawsuit is an action initiated by a landlord to seek possession of real property due to the tenant’s breach of the lease terms.

Landlord and Tenant Obligations

Per A.R.S. §§ 33-13221323, 1324, Arizona landlords must make their rental properties safe and habitable in order to accept tenants. This includes complying with applicable building codes and maintaining all utilities equipment. Landlords shall give the tenant the name and address of the property manager, a signed copy of the lease and possession of the residence.

Tenants, in turn, are obligated to pay rent on time. They must keep the residence safe and habitable by removing/disposing of trash, keeping fixtures clean and preventing damage to the property. Utilities are expected to be used at a reasonable rate. The residence also must only be used as housing unless a provision in the lease states otherwise.

If, during the period of the lease agreement, there is a breach of lease or a failure to comply with any of the above obligations, the violated party may file a breach of lease lawsuit.

Overview of Lease Lawsuits

Under normal circumstances, a tenant’s breach of a lease agreement can result in the landlord asking the court to evict the tenant. In most cases, the landlord must first provide the tenant with notice of the intent to terminate the lease agreement and then follow the correct rules and procedures for eviction. These processes have been put on pause, however, due to the pandemic, as most landlords have decided to not pursue eviction lawsuits during the pendency of Governor Ducey’s order.

Arizona Executive Order 2020-14

Arizona governor Doug Ducey signed Executive Order 2020-14 on March 24th, giving renters protection from being displaced from their residences for 120 days. The order protects all renters who were diagnosed with, experienced symptoms of, or were economically affected by the novel coronavirus.

Breach of Lease Remedies

In the event of a breach of lease, the landlord has legal cause to evict the tenant but must first provide notice to start the eviction process. Fortunately, many cases can easily be remedied if the landlord and tenant communicate and collaborate.

  • Five-Day Notice to Pay Rent is the landlord’s demand that the tenant pays late rent within five days of receiving the notice. Non-compliance can result in the lawsuit moving forward.
  • Five-Day Notice to Cure Safety and Health Issues is the notice informing the tenant that the material breach of lease must be managed within five days. This includes repairs and maintenance of the residence.
  • Ten-Day Notice to Cure Material Non-Compliances with the Lease provide a greater window of time in which the tenant can resolve the breach of lease. If the issue has not been addressed, the landlord can file the eviction lawsuit.
  • Unconditional Quit Notice is an immediate termination of the lease agreement because a crime, or similar behavior, has been taken place on the property or by the tenant.

Find an Experienced Arizona Real Estate Attorney

MacQueen & Gottlieb has significant experience with lease agreements in Arizona and we can help review your lease agreement to decide on the best course of action. Our attorneys can represent you throughout the entire process and assist with all negotiations if needed. Contact us today at (602) 562-7218 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment online.


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