By Mark B. Zinman, Attorney at Zona Law Group P.C.
In April, we wrote about Governor Ducey’s Executive Order 2020-14 which provided for a temporary delay of writs of restitution in some eviction actions. After that Executive Order, the federal government passed the C.A.R.E.S. Act, which further restricted landlords’ rights, provided that the landlord has a federally backed mortgage or participates in certain federal programs.
Before learning what the Act does, it is important to decide whether the law applies to your property. The Act defines a “covered property” ” as a property that: (1) participates in a “covered housing program” as defined by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) (as amended through the 2013 reauthorization); (2) participates in the “rural housing voucher program under section 542 of the Housing Act of 1949”; (3) has a federally backed mortgage loan; or (4) has a federally backed multifamily mortgage loan. See Sec. 4024(a) (2). While we don’t expect our readers to know all of these federal programs, the general gist is that if you participate in a federal program, the Act applies.
Once you know the Act applies to your property, then you are limited in what actions you can take against your resident. The moratorium restricts landlords of covered properties from filing new eviction actions for non-payment of rent, it also prohibits “charg[ing] fees, penalties, or other charges to the tenant related to such nonpayment of rent.” Sec. 4024(b). The landlord (of a covered property) cannot evict a tenant, even after the moratorium expires, unless the landlord provides a 30 days’ notice, which cannot be delivered until after the moratorium period has come to an end. See Sec. 4024 (c). It also appears that landlords are not supposed to serve non-payment of rent notices, but there is debate over that issue, given the vague language used in the federal law.
Basically, if the Act applies you to, you can’t file non-payment of rent evictions, you can’t serve “notices to vacate” and you can’t charge late fees, all for 120 days, starting on March 27. Because a “notice to vacate” is not defined in federal law, it is not clear what this applies to and you should speak to your attorney.
In this time of change it is also important to focus on the bigger picture. Many investors in Arizona have gotten lackadaisical about pushing for landlords’ rights. They have found Arizona to be generally favorable and have taken that for granted. Among the other things to be learned from the epidemic is that politics and the law can change quickly. It is suspected that even more pro-tenant legislation will be pushed in the coming years. If members are not proactive about these things, it is possible that rent control or other bad-for-business ideas will prevail. You must get involved in legislative matters.