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A group of multiple rental housing owners have filed a special action with the Arizona Supreme Court against the state’s eviction moratorium put in place during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The Arizona Multihousing Association, the Manufactured Housing Communities of Arizona, and other rental housing owners believe the moratorium, which is a part of Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order, violates the separation of powers imposed by the Arizona Constitution and violates the Constitution’s contract clause.
“This is a very difficult decision for the rental housing industry — and we recognize that it may draw some criticism — however, we believe that it’s necessary to protect all Arizonans,” Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus, president and CEO of the AMA, said on Thursday. “I think we can all agree protecting private property rights and preventing the government from interfering with private contracts is critically important even during a pandemic.”
Gilstrap LeVinus added that rental owners have still had to pay mortgages, taxes, and bills, including utility bills for numerous residents who aren’t paying rent.
According to a press release from the group Wednesday, although the state has received more than 20,000 requests for nearly $11 million in assistance, only 7% of the applications have been approved since April.
“When the pandemic hit, the state didn’t order grocery stores and restaurants to give away free food, or gas stations to give away free fuel,“ Gilstrap LeVinus said in the release. “Rental housing is the only area of the state economy that has been compelled to provide a product or service free of charge during the pandemic. No other area of the economy has suddenly seen more than 920,000 legally binding private contracts made null and void by a stroke of the Governor’s pen.”
The moratorium, initially put in place in March, was set to expire in July, but Ducey issued an executive order delaying the enforcement of evictions for renters who were impacted by the coronavirus until Oct. 31. Renters are still legally required to pay back everything they owe from the time they started withholding payments.
Applications for the Arizona’s Rental Property Owner Preservation Fund, which helps rental property owners struggling to meet their mortgages and have tenants who have been unable to pay rent during the pandemic, opened last week.
The program, announced in a press release when Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey extended the eviction moratorium, is funded with $5 million.