MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz. — Maricopa County saw the third most evictions filed in August 2023 – ever. The two months that experienced more evictions were in 2005.
Landlords filed 7,693 new cases in the month of August. While not every eviction results in a housing loss, the upward trend is considered a “rising tide,” according to a press release from the Maricopa County Justice Courts.
Presiding Justice for the Peace in Maricopa County Anna Huberman has seen the increase firsthand in the courtroom. Huberman said many defendants lost their jobs and got behind on rent payments. Even those who were able to get another job are in the courtroom, Huberman said. It takes time to catch up on payments – time that people facing eviction do not have.
“As much as I feel for a lot of the situations… We all feel for those situations, but as a court there is nothing that we can do,” Huberman said.
House Bill 2485, enacted in 2022, requires evictions to be sealed when the court enters an order dismissing the case to a prior judgment, the court enters a judgment in favor of the tenant, or when the landlord and tenant agree to set aside and seal the eviction.
But Huberman said sealed evictions are not a right that renters can expect, as they are only allowed in certain cases.
“In today’s rental market, it appears that anyone who has an eviction on their record is getting automatically rejected from being able to rent,” Huberman said.
In order to avoid eviction, it is crucial for renters to take action before they miss a payment, Huberman said. Renter’s assistance can be “hit or miss,” as it could take time to receive the funds.
“When they know that there is a potential for something to happen, the sooner they can request the rental assistance, the better position they’ll be,” Huberman said. “They’ll be able to get that assistance before it is too late.
There are many factors that can impact eviction rates, Huberman said, but right now, she thinks the skyrocketing rent prices are the culprit.
“Clearly the lack of affordable housing is what brought us to this point,” Huberman said.
As for solutions, Huberman said she does not think this problem is one that the courts can solve.
“We can only get the cases that we get and see them in a legal fashion once we get them,” Huberman said. “There’s really nothing that we can do to stop the filing of evictions.”
But Huberman said she believes that information can be the most powerful tool in a renter’s arsenal, and recommends tenants get information from sources like the courts, and keep their landlord up to date on their financial situation.
“I do go out of my way to make sure that tenants who appear in my court leave with at least that information in hand, to know what they can do, what the consequences could be for them,” Huberman said. “The more a tenant knows, the easier it is to get out of sticky situations.”
For more information regarding financial assistance for renters in Maricopa County, visit www.justicecourts.maricopa.gov
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