Rule Changes for Eviction Procedure

From Pima County Bar Association Newsletter The Writ

Written By SALA Staff Attorney James Daube

On August 27, 2019, the Supreme Court of Arizona issued Arizona Court Order 19-0020, amending Rules 5 and 10 of the Rules of Procedure for Eviction Actions.  The order, which takes effect January 1, 2020, substantially changes the requirements for attachments to eviction complaints, as well as disclosures that parties must make to each other before trial.

Currently, landlords are only required to attach a copy of the notice to vacate to the eviction complaint, such as a five-day notice for nonpayment of rent.  If tenants want to review other evidence, they must request disclosure of that evidence per Rule 10, and hope that the landlord timely complies with that request (the current Rule 10 does not specify a deadline for disclosure).  Many tenants are unaware that they have a right to demand Rule 10 disclosures from the landlord, as the majority of tenants are unrepresented in court.  Even those tenants aware of the rules may never have a chance to demand disclosure, as the court frequently renders judgment at the initial hearing.  Given that the initial hearing can take place in as few as two days after the service of the complaint, the tenant only has a limited time to seek legal advice and prepare for trial.  Tenants frequently misplace pertinent documents such as their lease and receipts for payment of rent, leaving them at a disadvantage at court. The landlord, by contrast, has plenty of time to pull files, gather evidence, and calculate damages before filing the complaint.

The rule change attempts to mitigate the tenant’s inherent disadvantage by allowing the tenant to receive the most pertinent evidence – the lease provisions at issue, and the payment history – at the onset of the case, and ensuring that the tenant receives any remaining evidence before the date of the trial.

Beginning January 1, where nonpayment of rent is at issue, the landlord must serve a copy of the accounting of charges and payments for the preceding six months with the complaint. Additionally, the landlord must serve with the complaint a copy of the provisions of any lease agreement and/or addendums relating to the underlying basis of the eviction action.

The new rules also specify a deadline for additional disclosure.  Beginning January 1, the landlord must, upon request, provide the tenant a complete copy of the lease agreement and any addenda, along with a list of witnesses and exhibits, and copies of any documents the landlord intends to introduce, prior to the hearing or trial.  The rules are reciprocal and tenants must also disclose any witnesses or evidence that they intend to use at trial.  Failure to comply with these new rules could result in in the exclusion of evidence, delays, and even a dismissal of the Complaint under Rule 10(c) and Rule 13.

For tenants, the end result is the ability to make an informed decision as to whether and how they should contest an eviction.  For landlords, the end result is more paperwork at the onset, regardless of whether the eviction action is contested.  However, in all fairness, the paperwork being requested consists of items that a landlord would need to prove their case to begin with.

For attorneys who represent tenants, the end result will be the ability to evaluate a case and prepare for an initial hearing without having to resort to a scattered pile of rent receipts and/or a torn, old photocopy of a lease agreement that is almost always missing pages.  Accordingly legal service providers assisting tenants will be able to respond faster and more completely before the tenant’s first court appearance.