Eviction Trials in Arizona

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

Every eviction in Arizona requires an Eviction hearing, and occasionally a case will be set for 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 a tenant appears and presents a legitimate legal defense. Depending on how strict the judge interprets this statute, the hearing may be immediately stopped and matter 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 entering judgment 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 to several hours. At trial, both parties are given the opportunity to make brief introductory statements. Landlords and tenants may introduce evidence and question witnesses. Evidence will consist of pictures, emails, text messages, lease agreements, etc.

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.

“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 11(d) of the Rules of Procedure for Eviction Actions

1. What happens at the initial hearing? Eviction hearings are bunched into tight blocks of time. It is not uncommon for 30 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 the hearing and a default judgment is granted.

This short period of time does not allow for testimony, opening arguments, or to review evidence. So, just because a case was set for trial it does not mean that the opposing party did something 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 if the eviction case was filed for a material 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 experienced Arizona attorney, then contact the Dunaway Law Group at 480-702-1608 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 the states of Arizona and New York.

Author: Clint Dunaway

Arizona attorney.