Having to evict a tenant is always a worst-case scenario. It is important, though, for landlords to understand exactly how the eviction lock out process works before they’re faced with it in real life. Understanding the basics will not only help to save you a great deal of stress, but it can also help to keep you from falling afoul of the courts.
Arizona eviction lock out process
In Arizona, a lock out is only permissible in those situations where doing so is allowed under the rental contract and in which the landlord has followed very specific statutory rules. A landlord cannot simply lock out a tenant as his or her own form of eviction, nor can a landlord change the locks on a rental unit without warning. Instead, understanding the eviction lock out process largely means understanding how and when the landlord is legally allowed to lock out a tenant, and how it works as part of the large (and legal) eviction process.
Circumstances permitting the eviction lock out process
If you’re looking into the eviction lock out process, it’s really only for a few solid reasons. All of these reasons have to do with a tenant failing to uphold his or her part of the landlord-tenant agreement. As such, you’ll want to look to your own lease document to determine what the next logical action will be.
Most evictions and lock outs happen because a tenant doesn’t pay rent. If the tenant fails to pay rent by the specified date in the lease and further refuses to pay before the statutory time period is over, the tenant may be evicted. If a tenant violates the terms of a lease (sneaking in a pet, smoking in an apartment, etc) and refuses to cure the issue within a specified time period, a lock out may also be a reasonable action. Finally, tenants who damage a property may also be candidates for a lock out if they fail to cure the issue within a set period of time.
When you evict a tenant from a property, you’ll almost certainly be left dealing with his or her abandoned property. While holding on to the property is not ideal, it is something that you are required to do by law. As a landlord, the state of Arizona expects you to exercise proper care in making sure that these items are kept for at least the next ten days. You’ll be required to send a certified letter to the tenant at his or her last known good address letting him or her know that they have ten days to come and get the property. If the tenant does not claim the property, you can actually sell anything that was left behind in the unit to help cover the cost of what the tenant still owes you – including any costs that were incurred when storing the property that the tenant abandoned.
Eviction through court action
Note that in most cases, you will not evict your tenant through a lock out. Instead, you will follow the same procedures in terms of giving notice and providing paperwork, but take the tenant to court in order to formally evict the tenant. The courts in Arizona are very friendly to property owners and the eviction itself only takes a few minutes, but it will give you the legal right both to terminate the tenancy and to have the tenant removed from your property. If you need to get rid of a problem tenant, it’s important that you remember to always go through the courts.
Actions to take prior to lock out
In most cases, you won’t be able to lock out your tenants. Typically speaking, you’ll need to start with the lease document itself in order to make a lock out legal. In the document, there will need to be a section in writing that allows the landlord the right to retake the premise in such a case where the tenant has defaulted. If this section is not in the lease, it can be difficult to prove that the landlord has the right to lock out the tenant.
Next, you’ll have to prove that you properly gave the tenant notice of his or her default and that you gave the tenant the chance to cure the issue. In Arizona, this means either giving the tenant five days to cure unpaid rent or ten days to cure some kind of property damage and/or lease violation. If you do not give the tenant proper written notice, you’ll be unable to do a legal lock out.
Finally, you’ll need records to show that the tenant failed to cure the defect. This means either a final statement to the tenant showing that he or she did not pay rent on time or a statement that shows that the tenant failed to cure the issue with the property. As long as all three of these factors are present, you can conduct a legal lock out.
Every case is different
It’s also a very good idea to note that no two lock outs are exactly the same. The type of property you own, the type of lease document that you have chosen, and even the relationship you have with your renter will play a role in what happens next. It’s always important to make sure that you are following the rules as precisely as possible and that you document absolutely anything that happens that is out of the ordinary. As a property owner, your best friend during the eviction lock out process will be the paper trail that you keep.
Using a Property Management Company
It’s always a good idea to work with professionals who can help you to make sure that eviction issues are less likely to occur. We can help you to find great tenants, administer the process of interacting with renters, and even help you to professionally conduct your eviction lock out process when and if it becomes necessary. If you’re ready to eliminate some of the headaches that come with owning an investment property, make sure to download the free 5 day eviction notice template.