Eviction Trial

What is the Difference between an Eviction Hearing and Eviction Trial?

Every eviction in Arizona requires an Eviction hearing but occasionally the case will be set for trial. At an Eviction hearing the landlord’s attorney appears and shows a judge the necessary paperwork to receive a judgment. For good cause shown the judge may set the matter for trial.

Why Would a Judge Set it for a Trial?

Under certain circumstances the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act requires that an eviction case be set for a trial. An eviction case will be set for trial if; the tenant appears and makes a legal defense to the attorney’s claims. Depending on how strict a judge interprets this statute, the hearing may be stopped the moment a tenant presents a legal defense and set for trial. Other judges will allow the landlord’s attorney and the tenant an opportunity to present their best arguments for a moment before dismissing the case or setting it for trial. However, most judges will not listen to any testimony or view evidence at the initial hearing and just set it for trial.

Rule 11(c) of the Rules of Civil Procedure for Eviction Actions states that “The court may order the continuance of a trial date by up to three court days in justice court or ten days in superior court on the request of a party for good cause shown or to accommodate the demands of the court’s calendar… No continuance of more than three court days in justice courts or ten days in superior courts may be ordered unless both parties are in agreement”.

What Can I Expect at an Eviction Trial?

Eviction trials can last from 30 minutes or so to several hours. During eviction trials both parties are given the opportunity to make brief introductory statements. Landlords and tenants may introduce evidence and question witnesses. Typical evidence is; pictures, text messages, lease agreements, and emails. Eviction trials can last for several hours.

In Arizona, all eviction cases–whether in the justice court or superior court–are controlled by the Rules of Procedure for Eviction Actions. If a Plaintiff-landlord wishes to have a trial by jury then it can be requested. Under Rule 11(d) of the Rules of Procedure for Eviction Actions-

“Trial Settings. Contested detainer matters shall be set for a trial by a judge alone unless a jury trial is demanded by the plaintiff in the complaint or by the defendant at or before the initial appearance. Failure to request a jury trial at or before the initial appearance shall be deemed a waiver of that party’s right to a jury trial. At the initial appearance, if a jury trial has been demanded, the court shall inquire and determine the factual issues to be determined by the jury. If no factual issues exist for the jury to determine, the matter shall proceed to a trial by the judge alone regarding any legal issues or may disposed of by motion or in accordance with these rules, as appropriate.”

Rule 12(a) of the Rules of Procedure for Eviction Actions provide us with the necessary steps for having a jury trial. The court will permit seven jurors in the justice court and 9 jurors in the superior court.

1. What happens at the initial hearing? 

Eviction hearings are bunched into tight blocks of time. It is not uncommon for 40 eviction hearings to be scheduled in a 60 minute block!  During these hearings, the courtroom is packed with attorneys, landlords, tenants, and crying babies. Thus, Judges are under necessity to move through each case as quickly as possible.  Additionally, the hearings move swiftly because often the defendants (tenants) don’t appear at their hearing.

In this short period of time does not allow for testimony, opening and closing statements, or review evidence. So just because the case was set for trial it doesn’t mean that they did anything right or that we did anything wrong.

2. Why would a judge set a case for trial?

If a tenant appears at the hearing and denies the allegations contained in the Complaint, the Judge may set the matter for trial.

  • If the original eviction Complaint was filed for failure to pay rent a tenant might appear and too the judge that they are actually current on their rent. As mentioned above, the Judge does not have time during this block of time to hear either parties’ argument, and he or she will set it for trial.
  • Another example is in the case that the Complaint was filed for breach of the lease agreement. For instance, if the signed lease agreement states that only two people may occupy the property. If the property owner finds out that there are 22 people living in the house he or she may file for an eviction based on the fact that the Tenants had more than the allowed number of occupants in the home; which is a breach of the original signed agreement. However, the Defendant (tenant) may appear and claim that the people in the house are just visiting. In this case the matter would be set for trial.

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