Evictions and Claims of Ownership

Claims of Ownership in Justice Court Evictions

Eviction lawsuits are designed to address the issue of possession and not ownership. Eviction lawsuits are to provide a summary, speedy and adequate remedy for obtaining possession of premises withheld by tenants, and for this reason this objective would be entirely frustrated if the tenants were permitted to deny the landlord’s title, or to interpose customary and usual defenses permissible in the ordinary action at law.

The merits of the title may not be inquired into in eviction actions, otherwise the action would not afford a summary, speedy and adequate remedy for obtaining possession of the rental property. The limited scope of eviction cases is explained in A.R.S. § 22-201(D) which states;

Justice Court Judges, “have jurisdiction to try the right to possession of real property when title or ownership is not a subject of inquiry in the action. If in any such action the title or ownership of real property becomes an issue, the justice shall so certify in the court record, at once stop further proceedings in the action and forward all papers together with a certified copy of the court record in the action to the Superior Court, where the action shall be docketed and determined as though originally brought in the Superior Court.”

A.R.S. § 22-201(D)

transfer to the superior court

Notice of Transfer to Superior Court. If the Justice Court judge rules that the eviction case should be transferred to the Superior Court then the Justice Court will file a Notice of Transfer and send the complete file to the Superior Court.

Beginning of the Eviction in the Superior Court. Once an eviction lawsuit has been transferred from the Justice Court to the Superior Court, it’s as if the case was re-starting. For instance, the filing fee of $333 (as of 2024) must be paid and the tenants must be re-served with the date and time of the upcoming hearing.

Initial Eviction Hearing in the Superior Court. The initial eviction hearing in the Superior Court will be fairly quick, similar to that of the Justice Court. If the tenant appears and presents legal arguments of ownership then the Superior Court judge will set the matter for trial.

Eviction Trials in the Superior Court. At the eviction trial, both parties will present their legal arguments, documentation and testimony that support their positions. At the conclusion of the trial the Superior Court judge will decide whether or not there is a landlord-tenant relationship between the two parties or a buyer-seller relationship. If the judge determines that there is a landlord-tenant relationship then he or she will enter judgment in favor of the landlord. However, if the judge finds that there is a buyer-seller relationship then he or she will dismiss the eviction lawsuit at which point the party seeking the eviction is free to file a quiet title action to settle the dispute of ownership.

Landlord Frustration. Often, when an eviction case is transferred from the Justice Court to the Superior Court, a landlord will respond, “But my tenant doesn’t own the property! It’s mine! They’re just lying! Why does the judge believe them?”

The frustration is understandable, but it is important to remember that the Justice Court Judge is just following the law, it does not mean that he or she necessarily believes the tenant. So, it should not be interpreted as a sign that the landlord did something wrong or the tenant made some brilliant legal maneuver. It simply means the Justice Court Judge is following the law.

If you need help from an experienced eviction 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.