Renters protected from being forced out?

Courts clarify governor's protection order
Posted at 5:44 PM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 01:03:18-04

PHOENIX — Despite a governor's order to keep renter's from being forced out, it's happening anyway even to renters who may qualify for the COVID-19 protections.

Some who work with these cases say the order needed clarification. They say some landlords are taking advantage of a lack of detail in the order.

The Rebound Arizona has pushed the governor's office for clarification in the past and gotten no response. We did that after hearing from a number of renters, and meeting Tanisha Bell and her family a couple of weeks ago in Glendale.

To get the protection, renters must show that COVID-19 is impacting their health or financial situation. And they must let the landlord know, in writing, that because of it, they are not able to pay rent.

The March order lasts 120 days.

Bell showed us documents where she says her part time work had ended because of COVID-19 concerns. And she showed us emails sent to the landlord explaining her situation.

Yet, she says a constable showed up at her door to remove the family, because her apartment management didn't think the documents were enough.

Bell was able to stay when she showed the constable what she had. But he said he'd be back.

Now, the Arizona Supreme Court has offered guidance that should help renters when it comes to documents and other needs.

Pam Bridge, an attorney with Community Legal Services says the court's "guidance" shows almost any documentation will work.

The guidance says "any available supporting documentation." Also, once that's provided, renters have until July 22 to stay. And constables will not come back during that time to check on renters as they may have done in the past.

It only affects renters being removed from their places. Evictions can continue and renter's still must pay rent they still owe.

Bridge says another concern was also addressed. She says some landlords thought they could still remove renters for issues other than non payment, even if those renters met the order requirements.

"This doesn't just apply to non payment of rent. It applies to all reasons people are being evicted," Bridge says.

We checked back with Tanisha Bell and her family today. She says she now has started another job. And she says she has new possibilities for other apartments.

But in the meantime, Bell says she can't get the thought of a constable coming back, out of her mind.

"I have that feeling everyday even at work. I worry if they're going to come while the girls are here," she tells me.

Click here for state help for renters and owners.