Eviction Trials in Arizona

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

Every eviction case in Arizona requires a hearing but occasionally a case will also be set for trial. An eviction case will be set for trial if a tenant appears at the initial hearing and presents a legitimate legal defense.

If a tenant presents a legitimate legal defense then the judge will allow each side between a few minutes, and a few seconds to present their legal arguments before deciding if the matter should be set for trial. Plus, judges will not listen to testimony or view evidence at the initial hearing. This means that landlords are not able to speak at the initial hearing.

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! Before COVID all hearings were held in person but now the parties are allowed to appear telephonically or via Zoom, depends on the court. During these hearings, all of the parties and their attorneys are on the call at the same time and so it is loud, chaotic, and very fast paced. Judges are under pressure to keep moving through the cases to stay on time because they have more hearings in the next hour!

This short period of time does not allow for testimony, opening arguments, or to review evidence.

2. Why would a judge set a case for trial? Just because a case was set for trial it does not mean that the tenant did something right or that we did something wrong.

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 because there is a factual dispute around how many people actually live in the house.

If the case is set for trial then by Rule 11(c) of the Rules of Civil Procedure for Eviction Actions, the trial should be held “within 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”.

3. What to 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.

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.