By Catherine Reagor, Jessica Boehm | Arizona Republic
Landlords wrongfully acted to evict metro Phoenix renters during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic despite a federal law protecting tenants from losing their homes if they couldn’t pay rent.
More than 900 evictions were filed against tenants who likely should have been protected by the federal CARES Act, according to an Arizona Republic investigation.
Most of those renters also were wrongfully charged hundreds of dollars in late and legal fees.
Unfortunately, the unique problems caused by the novel coronavirus required quick implementation of safeguards to the public. One major protection contained within the CARES Act is the eviction moratorium, ensuring tenants would not be evicted (though also not relieved of their rent duties) through the end of 2020. Importantly, this moratorium only applied to evictions due to monetary default – meaning evictions for property damage or criminal activity could still proceed. The disconnect occurs when the courts overseeing eviction proceedings do not require the landlords seeking eviction to specify if the tenant is currently protected under the CARES Act – further, the tenants are typically not on notice of their protections under the CARES Act, and do not raise the issue themselves. Certainly, of the hundreds of improper evictions, some landlords should have known the eviction was improper, but it seems the majority of evictions are a result of uninformed landlords and/or tenants, and courts simply acting on the facts presented.
Olen Lenets, Rose Law Group Attorney