County works to fix evictions mess

Pandemic points our weaknesses
Updated: Mar. 2, 2021 at 6:36 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Prior to the pandemic, evictions were a matter of routine and little notice. But since Arizona Governor Doug Ducey imposed an evictions moratorium last March, many issues have been exposed.

First of all, most renters accept an eviction as a given and have no knowledge of their rights. Only a small percentage hire legal help. It’s not just the tenants, but the landlords who have issues too.

Evicting someone who has done damage or caused other problems can be difficult to evict. Now, Pima County has passed a series of reforms it hopes will clarify the issues and clean up a backlog of 3,000 cases.

Pima County and the City of Tucson have together been given a combined $31.5 million federal funds to help people pay their rent and help landlords who are suffering losses for non payment of rent.

The money is yet to be distributed. It’s one reason the county is looking at a possible evictions court to handle just evictions cases to help clean up the backlog and.

Near the top of the list is to help people facing eviction to find legal help since the process is civil and not criminal.

“That can come from the UofA law school and we’ve already had discussions with them,” said Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. “So I think we’ve be able to put a package together with them in 30 days.”

Some of the reasons people may need legal help is because some have been evicted for small infractions like:

* trash on the front porch

* too many vehicles in the parking lot

* parking in the wrong spot

* incorrectly installing a smoke detector

* an inoperable vehicle in the yard

* clogging the toilet too many times

“A lot of times people don’t understand their rights, don’t understand the CDC moratorium” said District 2 Supervisor Matt Heinz. “And there are a lot of inconsistencies in the way JP’s process evictions.”

By having a court which can handle the cases, many can be solved without a family being put out on the street.

Studies show the cost of eviction to the taxpayer is much higher than solving the issue to keep families in place.

The recommendations on how to solve evictions issues were the result of a county appointed task force which included landlords, rental organizations and tenant advocates,

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