Adding Rent and Damages to a Judgment

What options are available to Arizona landlords if they find new damage to their rental property after the tenants have been evicted? Rule 13(c)(2)(A) of the Eviction Action Rules of Procedures states that: “…if the plaintiff is entitled to rent incurred after the judgment has been entered, then the plaintiff may seek that amount in a separate civil action.”

Rule 13(c)(2)(E) of the Eviction Action Rules of Procedures indicates that damages can only be awarded if they were “…properly pled in the complaint and when such damages resulted from the breach giving rise to the eviction.”

filing civil lawsuit against former tenant

Rent or damages sought post-eviction judgment must be sought in a separate civil suit, rather than an eviction action. While an eviction judgment can be obtained in just a couple of weeks, a civil judgment takes much longer to get – usually several months.

However, if the damage to your property is extensive, and you believe you have a good chance of recovering the money from your tenant, then it can be worth the time and money it takes to pursue.

An Arizona landlord may sue a former tenant for damage to the property while they were living there. Cost of repairs that are above the normal wear and tear of tenants is recoverable. The security deposit is held in reserve to help off-set the cost of rehabilitating the property for new renters. However, after subtracting the deposit from the cost to rehab the property a landlord may decide to sue the former tenants for the full extent of damages sustained. 

This highlights the importance of performing a thorough walk-through each time a tenant moves in or out of the property. Take very detailed notes, videos, and pictures of the property and note any damage. Give the tenants a copy of these records. Keep very detailed records of the cost to make the repairs. We must be able to prove to the court exactly how much it cost to repair the significant damage caused by a former tenant.

However, even if the tenant has vacated the property there is still an available remedy to try and seek a judgment against your former tenant. In this situation you may sue the former tenant under a breach of contract. The theory behind this is, a lawsuit existed (the lease agreement) and the contract was broken.

Unlike an eviction lawsuit, a civil lawsuit is very slow moving and the attorneys’ fees are much more expensive. Depending on many factors; whether the tenants counter-sue, hire legal counsel, are difficult to serve, and an extensive amount of discovery is required the typical case can range between 5 to 12 months! Much longer than the average 14 – 21 days required for a residential eviction.

does it make sense to file a new lawsuit?

In 99% of the instances, it does not make economic sense sue your former tenant through a breach of contract with a civil lawsuit. It’s just not worth the time, expense, and hassle of trying to get a judgment against them. Lastly, don’t forget, just because you actually obtain a judgment against your former tenant doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to collect on it. Often the judgment isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

If you need help from an Arizona real estate attorney, then contact the Dunaway Law Group at 480-389-6529 or message us HERE.

* The information provided is informational only, does not constitute legal advice, and will not create an attorney-client or attorney-prospective client relationship. Additionally, the Dunaway Law Group, PLC limits its practice to Arizona.

Author: Clint Dunaway

Arizona attorney.