Arizona Eviction Process
October 8, 2023
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Eviction In Arizona
If you own and rent properties in the state of Arizona, you are responsible for complying with Arizona eviction laws. In this article, we break down each step of the legal eviction process in Arizona.
Eviction Process in Arizona
- Landlord serves a zero- to ten-day eviction notice.
- Landlord files an eviction lawsuit with the court.
- Court serves tenant the summons.
- Tenant files an answer.
- Landlord and tenant attend court hearing and receive judgment.
- Tenant gets a final notice period to move out.
- Sheriff arrives to forcibly remove the tenant.
In Arizona, tenants can be evicted for material noncompliance with the rental agreement, nonpayment, material endangerment of health and safety, illegal activity, or falsification of the rental application.
It’s also important to note that if the landlord want to collect partial payments of rent or other charges during the eviction process, the tenant must agree in writing to the terms and conditions of the partial payment (i.e., they must agree that the lease will still terminate). If you continue accepting rent from a delinquent tenant without such an agreement, you may waive your right to terminate the agreement (ARS § 33-1371). For this reason, it’s especially important to initiate eviction in Arizona as soon as a tenant violates the lease.
1. Landlord Serves a Zero- to Ten-Day Eviction Notice
If any of the above lease violations occur, the landlord must first serve one of the following six eviction notices and state that the tenant has the corresponding number of days to remedy or cure the violation:
- Rent Demand Notice: 5 days to pay or quit (downloadable here). If rent is unpaid when due, the landlord must deliver this notice stating the amount of unpaid rent and late fees required to remedy the breach and the date on which the lease will terminate if they are not paid (not less than five days after receipt of the notice) (ARS § 33-1368(B)).
- Lease Violation Notice (Health & Safety): 5 days to cure or quit (downloadable here). If the tenant violates a lease term materially affecting health and safety, the landlord may deliver a five-day termination notice stating the breach, what is required to remedy it, and the date on which the lease will terminate if the tenant does not cure the breach (not less than five business days after receipt of the notice) (ARS § 33-1368(A)).
- Notice for Repeat Violation: 10 days to quit (downloadable here). If the tenant commits a second lease violation of the same or similar nature within the same term as a previous remedy of noncompliance, the landlord may send a ten-day quit notice. This notice is uncurable, and the landlord may file for eviction ten days after serving it (ARS § 33-1368(A)).
- Falsification of General Information on Rental Application: 10 days to cure or quit (downloadable here). If the landlord finds out that the tenant falsified any general information on their rental application (such as the number of occupants, pets, income, social security number, or current employment), the landlord may send this notice stating that the lease will terminate in ten days if the breach is not remedied (ARS § 33-1368(A)).
- Falsification of Criminal/Eviction Information on Rental Application: 10 days to quit (downloadable here). If the tenant is found to have falsified information about their criminal record, prior eviction record, or current criminal activity on their rental application, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement with no opportunity to cure after sending ten days’ notice (ARS § 33-1368(A)).
- Unconditional Notice to Quit: Immediate (downloadable here). If the commits a “material and irreparable” breach on the premises, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement and file for eviction immediately after sending a written notice to quit. Breaches that qualify for this notice include, but are not limited to:
- Illegal discharge of a weapon
- Criminal street gang activity
- Participation in a criminal syndicate
- Unlawful manufacturing, selling, transferring, possessing, or using of drugs
- Threatening, intimidating, or assault
- Acts of public nuisance
- Severely property damage
- Another breach of the lease that jeopardizes the health, safety, or welfare of the landlord, their agent, or another tenant
Distraint for rent is abolished in Arizona, meaning that at no point during the eviction process can the landlord change the locks on a tenant’s unit and sell their belongings to cover a defaulting tenant’s rent bill (ARS § 33-1372(B)). For all evictions, however, the landlord may recover all quantifiable damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney fees for the tenant’s noncompliance (ARS § 33-1368(C)).
2. Landlord Files an Eviction Lawsuit with the Court
If the tenant has not cured the breach at the end of the notice period (or if the breach is uncurable), the landlord must file a Complaint (Eviction Action) form (downloadable here) with the clerk of the Arizona Superior Court (for claims over $10,000) or an Arizona Justice of the Peace (for claims under $10,000).
The Complaint (Eviction Action) form includes:
- The names and basic information for both parties
- The landlord’s lawyer and bar number (if applicable)
- The precinct name, address, and contact information
- The case number
- A description of the rental property sufficient to identify it (aka, the address)
- The date the eviction notice was served, and the manner of service
- The amount of rent overdue, the date it became due, the rental rate, and the late fee amount
- The reason for eviction (non-compliance, irreparable breach, or another allegation)
- The total amount of money requested from the tenant
- The landlord’s signature and date
A copy of the eviction notice served to the tenant must also be attached (ARS § 12-1175(B)).
3. Court Serves the Tenant the Summons
As soon as the eviction action is filed, the court will issue a Summons (Eviction Action) form (downloadable here) demanding the tenant’s presence in court. The summons will be issued by the next judicial day at the latest (ARS § 12-1175(A)), and includes the following as per Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure No. 4:
- The names of all involved parties
- The name of the court to which the tenant is summoned
- The name and address of the landlord’s attorney
- The time and date the tenant must attend the hearing
- A warning that failing to appear will result in a default judgment against the tenant
- The fact that reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be accommodated if requested within three days before the hearing
The summons must then be served to the tenant. According to Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure No. 4, the summons must be served by a sheriff, sheriff’s deputy, constable, constable’s deputy, a private process server certified under the Arizona Code of Judicial Administration § 7-204 and Rule 4(e), or any other person specially appointed by the court. It is the landlord’s responsibility to direct the summons to an acceptable process server, request service, and pay any fee required for doing so. The sheriff’s office charges $16 for this service in Arizona.
The appointed server must serve the summons along with a copy of the complaint either by delivering a copy to the tenant personally, leaving a copy with someone of suitable age who lives there, or delivering a copy to an authorized agent. If service cannot be completed in person, and the court allows it, the summons may be mailed to the tenant. Along with the summons and complaint, the tenant should also receive a copy of the lease, six months of payment records if the eviction is for nonpayment, and the Arizona Residential Eviction Information Sheet. This should occur at least two judicial days before the court hearing, by which the sheriff or process server must file a return or proof of service with the court (ARS § 12-1175(C)).
Either party may postpone the hearing if they are granted a continuance by the court. A continuance will only be granted if there is a very good reason, and it will not be longer than three business days (ARS § 12-1177(C)).
4. Tenant Files an Answer
The tenant must file a written answer to the complaint before or on the day of the hearing. On the Answer (Eviction Action) form (downloadable here), the tenant can either:
- Admit the truth of the landlord’s complaint or parts of it
- Ask the court to dismiss the landlord’s case with an explanation why (e.g., the court does not have jurisdiction, proper notice was not given, etc.).
- List other defenses
- Deny that they failed to pay rent, caused any damage, or committed any material noncompliance with the lease.
If the tenant fails to file their Answer or bring it to court on the day of the hearing, a default judgment can be awarded to the landlord.
The tenant also has the option to file a counterclaim (Counterclaim (Forcible Detainer/Special Detainer)) if they believe that the landlord violated the lease agreement. The counterclaim could complain that the landlord was motivated by unlawful retaliation against the tenant, failed to maintain the unit in habitable condition, or tried to remove the tenant via a self-help eviction (unlawful measures to remove a tenant, such as shutting off utilities).
5. Landlord and Tenant Attend Court Hearing and Receive Judgment
The eviction hearing will be scheduled no more than five judicial days after the filing date (ARS § 12-1176(A)). One exception is for complaints filed due to “material and irreparable” breaches (those listed under the “unconditional notice to quit” above). For complaints that fall into this category, the hearing should be scheduled no more than three days after the filing date.
On the day of the eviction hearing, the landlord should bring copies of the lease agreement, the eviction notice with proof of service, the complaint, and any evidence of the lease violation. Both the landlord and tenant will present their cases and any evidence to the judge, who will afterwards either issue a judgment.
If the landlord wins, the court will hold the tenant responsible for all charges and damages stated in the lease, attorney fees, court costs, unpaid rent, and any other costs. The court will also issue the landlord an order for the tenant’s removal called a Writ of Restitution (Eviction Action) (downloadable here), but not until five days after the judgment. This effectively gives the tenant five days to move out before they can be legally removed from the unit. Evictions for irreparable actions are an exception to this rule, and writs for these evictions will be expediated and issued the next court day.
During the period before the writ issues, the tenant may choose to appeal the judgment. If the tenant won the case, the landlord can also do so within five days after the judgment (ARS § 12-1179(A)).
To initiate this process, the tenant must file a bond for costs on appeal. After doing so, the landlord has an additional five court days to file an objection to the affidavit in the justice court, where another hearing will be held five days after. The tenant can also file a supersedeas bond to stay or delay the execution of the judgment (ARS § 12-1179(B-F)).
6. Tenant Gets a Final Notice Period to Move Out
Regardless of the appeal status, if the tenant has not moved out after the five-day period, the writ of restitution will be issued by the clerk of the superior court. The landlord must call the sheriff’s office to arrange and pay for the writ to be served to the tenant.
Arizona law does not say how long tenants get to move out before the sheriff returns to remove them—only that officers should do so as quickly as possible. This means the tenant may get anywhere from a few hours to a few days of final notice to move out, depending on the sheriff’s availability.
7. Sheriff Arrives to Forcibly Remove the Tenant
The last step in the Arizona eviction process is to schedule and pay for an officer to forcibly remove the tenant from the property. The sheriff’s fee for this service is $48, plus a rate of $40 per hour per officer for the actual time spent in excess of three hours executing the writ. The sheriff will return to the rental unit to forcibly remove the tenant and return possession of the property to the landlord.
One day after the sheriff has removed the tenant, the landlord can turn off utilities (ARS § 33-1368(D)). The landlord is also responsible for clearing out any remaining belongings in the rental unit and storing the personal property in the following manner as per ARS § 33-1370:
- Send a notice stating that the tenant has 14 days to remove the personal property.
- Store the items in a safe place with reasonable care. The landlord is not responsible for any loss to the tenant resulting from the moving or storing of the property. They may also destroy or dispose of any property that would cost more to move, store, or sell than it is worth.
- If the tenant wishes to retrieve their property, they must pay actual removal and storage costs in full. A few types of property may be retrieved immediately, including clothes, materials of their profession, and any identity or financial documents.
- If the tenant makes no effort to recover the property, the landlord may donate it to a charity or sell the property. If the landlord chooses to sell it, they must apply the proceeds toward the tenant’s outstanding rent or other costs covered in the lease agreement. Any remaining proceeds must be mailed to the tenant at their last known address. Tax benefits resulting from the donation of the property also belong to the tenant.
Evicting a Squatter in Arizona
A squatter is a person who moves into a vacant or abandoned property without getting permission from the owner or paying rent. Squatters can usually be charged as criminal trespassers and be evicted like any other tenant. However, some squatters can receive the right to possession by meeting certain state-determined criteria. In Arizona, squatters’ rights are more complicated than in most states. It can take between two and ten years to invoke Arizona squatters rights and claim right of possession, depending on the circumstance as per ARS § 12-522 – 12-526. A squatter must either:
- Live in the property as a trespasser for two years (§ 12-522)
- Have color of title for three years (§ 12-523)
- Live in the property and pay property taxes with or without cultivating the land for at least five consecutive years (§ 12-524, 12-525)
- Live in the property and cultivate the land (without paying taxes) for ten years (§ 12-526).
A squatter’s possession must also be:
- Hostile/Adverse—The squatter must not have a valid lease with the owner
- Actual—The squatter must be actively residing on the property
- Open and Notorious—The squatter is openly and obviously living there.
- Exclusive—The squatter does not share possession of the property with anyone else.
- Continuous—The squatter must hold continuous and uninterrupted possession.
Additionally, only 160 acres can be claimed by squatter’s rights (ARS § 12-526).
While relatively rare, if a squatter meets all these criteria, they can file an action for adverse possession in Arizona and attempt to legally obtain the title to the property. However, in most cases, a squatter will not meet the criteria and can be removed. If you think a squatter is living in your vacant property in Arizona, you should:
- Call local law enforcement.
- Determine whether the person is a trespasser or a squatter.
- If the person is a trespasser, they can be removed immediately by a police officer.
- If the person is a squatter, you must contact the sheriff’s office.
- Send the squatter an eviction notice as per Arizona eviction law.
- If the squatter does not vacate the premises by the end of the notice period, file for eviction and follow the typical eviction process.
- Only the sheriff can physically remove a squatter from your property. You cannot do so, and neither can a police officer.
Arizona Eviction Cost Estimates
How much do evictions cost in Arizona? This chart shows estimates of the approximate cost of an eviction in Arizona, according to civil procedure in the state and iPropertyManagement. A highly accurate estimate of an eviction is impossible to provide, as cases and circumstances vary so widely. Remember to factor in other losses due to an eviction as well, such as lost rent, time, and stress.
|Action||Approximate Cost (Arizona Superior Court)||Approximate Cost (Arizona Justice Court)|
|Service of summons by sheriff or constable||$16||$16|
|Issuance of writ of restitution||$30||$28|
|Execution of writ of restitution||$48, plus $40 per hour per officer for time spent in excess of 3 hours||$48, plus $40 per hour per officer for time spent in excess of 3 hours|
|Average locksmith fees||$160||$160|
|Tenant turnover costs||Varies||Varies|
Arizona Eviction Time Estimates
The chart below shows an estimate of the duration of each part of the Arizona eviction process. Keep in mind that the length of eviction cases varies widely depending on the complexity of the eviction, the court’s current caseload, and whether or not the tenant contests or appeals the lawsuit.
|Eviction notice period||0-10 days|
|Service of summons to tenant||2 judicial days before the hearing|
|Tenant answer period||Any time before or at the hearing|
|Maximum continuance||3 business days|
|Eviction hearing||3-5 judicial days after the filing date|
|Issuance of writ of restitution||1-5 days after judgment|
|Execution of writ/time to quit after writ is posted||As soon as possible|
|Storage period||14 days|
- Notice for Failure to Pay Rent: 5-Day Notice to Pay Rent
- Notice of Health and Safety Violation(s): 5-Day Notice to Comply
- Notice of Material Breach: 10-Day Notice to Comply
- Notice of Material and Irreparable Breach: Immediate Notice to Move
- Notice of Repeat Material or Health and Safety Breach: 10-Day Notice to Move
- Complaint (Eviction Action)
- Summons (Eviction Action)
- Answer (Eviction Action)
- Counterclaim (Forcible Detainer/Special Detainer)
- Judgment (Eviction Action)
- Writ of Restitution (Eviction Action)
- Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure – This document includes the specific rules of court operations in the superior courts of Arizona.
- Complaint and Summons Instructions, Justice Court – This document has important instructions for landlords filing for eviction in Arizona Justice Court.
- Plaintiff Checklist for Residential Eviction Actions Filed in the Superior or Justice Court – This helpful checklist for landlord breaks down each step in filing an eviction action in Arizona.
The eviction process in any state can be long and complex, so hiring an eviction attorney is advised in most cases. It’s also important to note that municipalities and local governments often have stricter laws and requirements for landlords, so be sure to check local statutes as well as state ones. However, by reviewing the legal procedures for eviction in Arizona, you can feel more confident pursuing an eviction in this state.
Innago does not provide legal advice. The content and materials provided in this article are for general informational purposes only and may not be the most up-to-date information.