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This year, Halloween won’t just resemble social distancing while eating lots of chocolate and candy. After today, and absent any further state governmental action, October 31st will now represent the last date residential tenants in Arizona will remain protected under Governor Ducey’s Executive Order, enacted on July 16, 2020.

Executive Order 2020-49, entitled “Continued Postponement of Eviction Enforcement Actions,” comes amid Arizona suffering from one of the worst Covid-19 spikes in the U.S. Arizona currently has more than 134,000 people who are afflicted by the virus. The notion of renters being displaced out of their homes and into a state of homelessness during the brutally hot summer months in Arizona was becoming a stark reality up until today, as Executive Order 2020-14, enacted on March 24, 2020, was set to expire in the coming days on July 22, 2020.

Along with Executive Order 2020-49 comes the announcement that Governor Ducey is earmarking $650,000 to Community Action Agencies for additional staff to process rental assistance for those in need. Previously, $5 million had been allocated for rental assistance, but to date, only 1,200 renters had received assistance pursuant to that program in the amount of roughly $1.1 million. Hopefully more renters will now be able to tap into the assistance fund in the coming months and pay their rent.

Executive Order 2020-49 is substantially similar to Executive Order 2020-14, from the time period of July 22, 2020 to August 21, 2020. For this time period, tenants are protected from a landlord trying to enforce a writ of restitution by asking the local sheriff to physically dispossess the tenant from his or her home. The tenant needs to provide documentation to the landlord proving the tenant either has to be quarantined based on Covid-19 or has a financial hardship due to Covid-19.

After August 21, 2020, Executive Order 2020-49 becomes narrower, and requires that the tenant take additional steps: (1) the tenant must notify the landlord in writing with supporting documentation evidencing the tenant’s financial hardship as a result of Covid-19 and request for a payment plan; and (2) provide the landlord or property owner with a copy, with available supporting documentation, of proof of submission of their completed pending application for rental assistance through a state, city, county or nonprofit program.

The goal of Executive Order 2020-49, therefore, is directed at (1) ensuring tenants take all necessary steps to tap into the $5 million state-wide rental assistance program that has been in existence but has not been fully utilized, so that landlords can get paid to the extent possible; (2) preventing a humanitarian crisis by thrusting tenants into a state of homelessness in the scorching summer heat; and (3) continuing to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Governor Ducey also announced a plan earlier this week to distribute nearly $6 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Emergency Solution Grand program to organizations that support Arizonans in need and to combat homelessness.

Finally, Governor Ducey announced $5 million to launch the Foreclosure Prevention Program, designed to aid landlords who rely on rental income to pay their mortgage. The success of this program remains to be seen, but will likely be of heightened interest to numerous landlords across Arizona in the coming months.

Today’s Executive Order has enormous ramifications, as thousands of landlords were prepared to pursue eviction actions across Arizona in the coming days. These landlords will undoubtedly be changing course in how they move forward with their tenants.

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