In Arizona, landlords can evict tenants for a number of reasons, including not paying rent, violating the lease or rental unit, or committing a crime. Before evicting a tenant, though, landlords must closely follow Arizona's laws regarding terminating a tenancy.
Pre-Eviction: Terminating a Tenancy
The first step in all Arizona evictions (also called "special detainer actions") is to terminate the tenancy by delivering a written notice to the tenant. Whether (and how) a landlord can terminate a tenancy early depends on if the landlord has "cause"—a legal reason—to do so.
Notice of Termination for Cause in Arizona
Landlords can't end a tenancy early (before the lease or rental agreement has ended) unless there's cause for doing so. The most common causes landlords cite for ending a tenancy early are the tenant's:
Landlords must give the tenant a written notice to terminate a tenancy early. The type of notice required will depend on the reason for the termination. There are five types of notice in Arizona:
- Five-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit: If the tenant fails to pay rent when it is due, the landlord can give the tenant a five-day notice to pay rent. This notice must inform the tenant that the tenant has five days to pay rent or move out. If the tenant moves out without paying rent, the landlord can still sue for the amount due. If the tenant doesn't pay rent or move out within five days of receiving the notice, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1368(B)).
- Five-Day Notice to Cure or Quit: When a tenant fails to maintain the rental unit, and that lack of maintenance affects the health and safety of the tenant or other tenants on the premises, the landlord can give the tenant a five-day notice to cure or quit. The notice must state that the tenant has five days to perform the maintenance on the rental unit or move out. If the tenant moves out without fixing the violation, the landlord can use the security deposit to cover any damage caused by the tenant (and sue for any damage that is more than the security deposit). If the tenant doesn't move out or make the necessary repairs by the deadline, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1368(A) (2022).)
- 10-Day Notice to Cure or Quit: When a tenant violates the lease or rental agreement (or provides false information in their rental application), the landlord can give the tenant a 10-day notice to cure. The notice must state that the tenant has 10 days to fix the violation or move out. If the tenant moves out without fixing the violation, the landlord can use the security deposit to cover any damage caused by the tenant (and sue for any damage that is more than the security deposit). If the tenant doesn't move out or fix the violation by the deadline, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1368(A) (2022).)
- 10-Day Unconditional Quit Notice: If the tenant violates the lease or rental agreement a second time during the tenancy, or lies about their criminal record on their application, the landlord doesn't have to give the tenant a chance to fix the violation. Instead, the landlord can give the tenant a notice that describes the violation and informs the tenant that they have 10 days to move out. If the tenant doesn't move out by the deadline, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1368(A) (2022).)
- Unconditional Quit Notice: In some instances, the landlord can give the tenant a notice requiring the tenant to move out immediately. There must be a breach that is "both material and irreparable and that occurs on the premises." Some actions that might constitute such a breach include:
- discharge of a weapon
- criminal street gang activity
- use or sale of illegal drugs, and
- assaults or acts that threaten harm to others.
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1368(A) (2022).)
Notice of Termination Without Cause in Arizona
Unless a landlord has cause to terminate a tenancy early, the landlord can't make the tenant move out before the end of the lease or rental agreement. Whether the landlord has to give the tenant notice that the tenancy won't be renewed depends on the type of tenancy.
Ending a Fixed-Term Lease Without Cause
When a tenant has a fixed-term lease, such as for six months or one year, the landlord can't make the tenant move out until the term has ended. The landlord doesn't have to provide the tenant with notice ending the tenancy unless the lease specifically requires it. Otherwise, the landlord can expect the tenant to move by the end of the tenancy—and if the tenant doesn't move out, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit.
Ending a Month-to-Month Rental Agreement Without Cause
To end a month-to-month tenancy in Arizona, the landlord must give the tenant at least 30 days' written notice. The notice must inform the tenant that the tenancy will be ending in 30 days and the tenant must move out of the rental unit by then. If the tenant doesn't move out by the end date stated in the notice, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1375 (2022).)
Delivery of the Notice Terminating the Tenancy
Arizona law requires landlords to deliver the written notice terminating the tenancy by:
- personally handing it to the tenant
- mailing it by registered or certified mail to the tenant at the address designated in the lease or rental agreement, or
- mailing it by registered or certified mail to the tenant at the tenant's last-known residence.
When the notice is mailed, the number of days to comply with the notice begins to run either on the date the tenant actually receives the notice or five days after the notice is mailed—whichever occurs first. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1313 (2022).)
The landlord can file an eviction lawsuit on the day after the deadline given in the notice.
Tenant Defenses to Eviction in Arizona
Even when a landlord has a legal cause to evict a tenant, the tenant may still choose to fight the eviction. If the tenant has a valid defense, the court might dismiss the landlord's eviction suit. Valid defenses to eviction in Arizona include:
- The landlord used "self-help" measures to evict. Landlords can't take illegal self-help measures such as physically removing the tenant from the rental or locking the tenant out. Nor can landlords turn off electricity, gas, water, or other essential services in order to force the tenant out. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1367 (2022).)
- The landlord didn't use proper procedures to end the tenancy. Landlords must follow all the procedures mentioned above: They must first terminate the tenancy with the proper notice, wait until the deadline has passed, and only then file for an eviction. Courts often dismiss eviction suits when the tenant can show that the landlord didn't follow required procedures.
- The tenant pays the rent in full before an eviction judgment is ordered. If a tenant receives a notice to pay rent or quit and pays the rent in full (plus any late fees required under the lease or rental agreement) before the deadline, the landlord can't continue with an eviction action. After the deadline to pay has passed and the landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit, the tenant can still stop the eviction by paying all past due rent, reasonable late fees required under the lease or rental agreement, and the landlord's attorneys' fees and court costs. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1368(B) (2022).)
- The landlord didn't make necessary repairs. Tenants in Arizona can, in certain situations, make repairs on their own and deduct the cost of the repairs from their rent. In order to qualify to withhold rent in this way, though, the tenant must take steps to notify the landlord of the problem. (No tenant should withhold rent for repairs unless they exactly follow the notification requirements in the statute.) If a tenant can show that the landlord is trying to evict them for nonpayment of rent despite having followed these rules, the court might dismiss the eviction suit. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1363 (2022).)
- The tenant has corrected the lease violation noted in the notice to cure. As discussed in detail above, the landlord must give the tenant the opportunity to fix some lease or rental agreement violations. If a landlord proceeds with eviction even after the tenant fixed the violation, the tenant can present this as a defense to the eviction suit.
- The landlord is illegally retaliating against the tenant. Arizona landlords can't evict a tenant in retaliation because the tenant:
- complained to a governmental agency regarding a building or housing code violation that materially affects health and safety
- complained to the landlord about the landlord's failure to maintain habitable premises
- organized or became a member of a tenants' union or similar organization, or
- complained to a governmental agency responsible for enforcing the wage-price stabilization act.
A tenant can fight eviction by showing that the landlord is trying to evict the tenant for engaging in any of these activities. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1381 (2022).)
- The landlord is trying to evict for a discriminatory reason. The federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant based on race, religion, gender, national origin, familial status, and disability. If a landlord evicts a tenant for one of these reasons, the tenant can defend against the eviction on the grounds of illegal discrimination. Arizona law also expressly prohibits landlords from discriminating against people with children. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1317 (2022).)
When a tenant defends themselves against an eviction, the court usually allows the tenant to remain in the rental until the matter is decided. Once an eviction is contested in this manner, the costs of the eviction suit typically increase greatly for the landlord.
Physical Removal of Tenants in Arizona
The only way a tenant can be removed from a rental unit is if the landlord wins an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. When a landlord wins an eviction lawsuit, the landlord must go back to court five days after the judgment against the tenant and get a writ of restitution from the court. The landlord can then give the writ of restitution to a law enforcement officer who is qualified to physically remove the tenant from the rental. The landlord must never try to force the tenant to move out of the rental unit.
Removal of a Tenant's Personal Property After an Eviction
After an eviction occurs, the landlord may find that the tenant has left personal property in the rental unit. The landlord cannot just dispose of the property. The landlord must notify the tenant in writing that the tenant has 14 days to claim the property. If the tenant does not claim the property in 14 days, the landlord can donate the property to charity or sell the property (the landlord can charge the tenant reasonable fees for storage).
If the landlord sells the property, the landlord can use the proceeds to cover outstanding rent or other costs (as specified in the rental agreement) that the tenant owes the landlord. After the sale, the landlord must give any remaining money to the tenant. Landlords may destroy or dispose of property if the landlord reasonably determines that the value of the property is so low that storing or selling it wouldn't be worth it. For full details on how to dispose of tenants' abandoned personal property in Arizona, read Arizona Revised Statute section 33-1370.
Additional Resources Regarding Arizona Evictions
The Arizona Department of Housing has information on its website about Arizona's landlord and tenant laws. You can read the text of the Arizona statutes mentioned in this article on the Arizona state legislature's website. People with limited financial means might qualify for reduced-fee or free legal aid. Finally, the Arizona Judicial Branch has a helpful self-help website for landlords and tenants that provides information about how to file and how to respond to an eviction lawsuit.