Fact Finders: Eviction concerns under CARES Act a potential ‘tsunami of terror'

Evictions Protocol

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Arizona’s ban on evictions is set to expire in a week.

The moratorium under the CARES Act, which placed a 120-day moratorium on evictions, is set to expire on July 25.

Local and state leaders and advocacy groups have been putting pressure on Gov. Doug Ducey to extend his current executive order, which was issued on March 24. It expires on July 22.

KOLD News 13 received an email from a renter who claimed a landlord was charging late fees for tenants who were not paying rent. The viewer said they notified the landlord of an issue with payment due to COVID-19, but their housing is also covered under the CARES Act. 

We asked a legal expert to weigh in on the situation.

Under the executive order, tenants were to notify landlords in writing if they were or are affected financially or medically by COVID-19. If a tenant notified the landlord of a qualifying COVID-19-related reason, he or she may stay in the home until a court orders enforcement of the eviction, or the governor’s order expires, whichever occurs sooner.

“Under the executive order in Arizona, nothing prevents the charging of fees or even the entry of judgement,” said Corinne Cooper, a professor emerita of law.

However, under the CARES Act, landlords cannot file new eviction actions for nonpayment of rent, nor can they charge late fees, penalties, or other charges related to nonpayment of rent.

“The tenant is right. Those fees can’t be charged to anybody in that complex,” Cooper said.

People who live in federally financed properties or have supplements, like Section 8 waivers, are covered under the CARES Act. The status can be checked through mortgage companies, including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Cooper said renters would also know they are covered if they receive federal assistance as that information is not publicly disclosed. However, she claims she has found that many landlords may have violated the federal law.

“In Pima County, we have documented 184 cases where properties are covered by the CARES Act where an eviction has been filed,” Cooper said when she spoke with KOLD News 13 last week.

KOLD News 13 has not independently verified the data from Cooper.

Advocates and officials worry of what could come if the moratoriums are not extended.

“This is a tsunami of terror that wakes our team up at night,” said Wendy Johnson, executive director of Justa Center, a community center for homeless seniors in Phoenix.

Some real estate experts estimate that the state could see tens of thousands of evictions once the order expires.

“We need a stay - a stay of executions, because that’s what evictions are going to do. It’s going to kill people,” Johnson said.

While there may be fear for the future, KOLD News 13 asked Cooper what happens to the individuals who have been wrongly evicted during the pandemic.

“What happened is a violation of federal law led to their inappropriate and improper eviction. What happens to them is an open question at this point,” Cooper said. “What happens to the landlords and the lawyers who have, in violation of the CARES Act, evicted those people, taken the judgement, filed the eviction or taken the eviction and gotten a writ and that writ has been executed. What happens to those landlords and lawyers is still an open question.”

The city of Tucson has been filtering some federal money through a renter’s assistance program.

For more resources for renters, click here.

The Pima County Community Action Agency has a hotline to serve those seeking aid from the COVID-19 Rental Eviction Assistance Program that is funded through the Arizona Department of Housing.

Individuals are urged to complete the online application, but those without internet access can call the state’s 211 hotline for assistance.

  • Press 8 for COVID-19
  • Pick a language, press 1 or 2
  • Press 5 for Eviction Prevention

The new Pima County CAA Hotline is 520-724-2505.

The Arizona Attorneys Respond: Legal Hotline is also a free resource for getting legal help during the COVID-19 global pandemic. If you have legal issues stemming from COVID-19, the free statewide hotline could provide the legal information you need. You can call 866-611-6022 between the hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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