Maricopa County landlords file thousands of evictions during pandemic, moratorium expires soon

Despite the national order on eviction moratoriums issued in September 2020, thousands of landlords in Arizona haven't stopped filing for evictions through the court system.

The federal ban on most evictions is set to expire on July 31 as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said this would be the final extension for the COVID-19-related moratorium.

The pandemic overwhelmed landlords and tenants financially. Many renters couldn't pay rent, while landlords suffered after not receiving their payments.

Now with the CDC's eviction moratorium about to expire, will eviction filings spike in Maricopa County?

"It is a last case scenario, it is the last thing that rental property owners want to do anytime is evict somebody," said President and CEO of the Arizona Multihousing Association, Courtney Levinus.

She says the eviction process is costly for landlords.

Despite the eviction moratorium, nearly 18,000 evictions have been filed in Maricopa County this year, which is a substantial decrease compared to pre-pandemic numbers in 2019.

Last year at this time, the county saw a little more than 20,000 filings.

Levinus expects 2021 filings to increase when the moratorium expires, but not drastically.

"We honestly don't anticipate it going above or beyond any of the historical eviction filing numbers and in fact we anticipate it being less," Levinus said.

From January through June this year, there have been 1,500 writs issued, which are orders to remove tenants from properties.

Levinus estimates rental property owners in Arizona are owed about $500,000,000 in back-rent. She says $880,000,000 in federal funding has been allocated to the state but only $67,000,000 has been given out so far.

"Basically, government has turned private housing into public housing overnight. However, they failed to provide adequate funding to the rental property owners," Levinus said.

Kelly McGowan, deputy director of Wildfire says, "It's all hands on deck to get as much money out the door as we can by the end of the month for people who need it."

Wildfire is a nonprofit that helps renters get financial assistance. They work with the city of Phoenix to distribute dollars using CARES Act funding.

She says Wildfire's goal is to provide 50% of the $25,000,000 allocation by the end of the month.

"At this point, they've given 40% of it, citing a complex application process," McGowan said, adding, "There's a lot of guidance from the Treasury, a lot of paperwork requirements, a lot of requirements and working with the landlord and getting the correct documentation."

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, there have been nearly 44,000 eviction filings in Maricopa County.

Both Levinus and McGowan advise landlords and tenants to have open communication regarding rent payments.

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