Articles Posted in Landlord/Tenant (Residential)

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ARS §33-420 is Arizona’s Groundless lien statute. Generally, it prohibits someone from making a wrongful claim against a parcel of real property. It provides that a person who causes a document to be recorded “knowing or having reason to know that the document is forged, groundless, contains a material misstatement or false claim or is otherwise invalid is liable to the owner or beneficial title holder of the real property for the sum of not less than five thousand dollars, or for treble the actual damages caused by the recording, whichever is greater, and reasonable attorney fees and costs of the action.”

This is a powerful statute. When a false lien or claim is discovered, often all that is needed to get it removed is to make a demand pointing out the penalties in this statute.

Recently the Arizona Court of Appeals has broadened the protection this statute provides. In Stauffer v. U.S. Bank National Association it was ruled that recorded documents that assert some interest in real property, such as a Notice of Trustee’s Sale, are subject to Arizona’s Groundless Lien Statute. This potentially gives Arizona homeowners another strong avenue of attacking a foreclosure proceeding that was filed prematurely or without legal justification.

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In a residential eviction action the landlord must first give the tenant written notice that the tenant has five calendar days to pay the rent. At a minimum, the five day notice must tell the tenant that the tenant is behind in the rent and state the amount of money the tenant must pay to cure the default. The notice must also tell the tenant that the lease will terminate unless the tenant pays the entire amount due on or before the expiration of five days from the date the tenant receives the five day notice. The notice may be hand-delivered to the tenant or sent by certified or registered mail. If the notice is sent by certified or registered mail, the judge will assume the tenant received the notice on the date the tenant signs for it, or five calendar days after it was mailed, whichever occurs first.

If the tenant does not cure the default, the landlord can file a forcible detainer complaint in court. Typically, forcible detainer actions in Arizona are filed in justice court. If damages are greater than $10,000, then the case must be filed in superior court. The complaint should ask for a writ of restitution (eviction), possession of the premises, all late rent, all late fees, rent due through the end of the current periodic rental period, the landlord’s court costs, and attorney’s fees if applicable. Attach a copy of the lease agreement and the five day notice to the complaint.

Trial is typically set by the court clerk three to six business days after the complaint is filed. The landlord must have the summons and complaint served on the tenant at least two days before the trial date. The tenant should be personally served with the summons and complaint either by a constable or by a private process server.

If personal service cannot be obtained, then the process server may post the summons and complaint on the front door of the residence within one day of filing the complaint, and on the same day the summons and complaint must be sent to the tenant’s address by certified mail, return receipt requested. If the process server succeeds in obtaining personal service on the tenant, he will file an “affidavit of service” with the court. If the process server cannot personally serve the tenant, he will file an “affidavit of attempted service” with the court.

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