With the extension of the Moratorium on the Execution of Writs of Restitution until the end of October 2020 for tenants effected by COVID, we have had many clients question the best steps to take at the present time with regard to the Writ of Restitution.
First, the Moratorium only applies to tenants affected by COVID. This means a tenant who has lost his/her job, had his/her hours reduced by an employer, has contracted COVID-19, must quarantine due to COVID-19 or is a high risk individual due to other health concerns. Second, the tenant is required to provide proof his/her COVID hardship. This is written documentation such as a letter from an employer or a doctor.
Unfortunately, we are seeing forged documents from tenants regarding their COVID hardship. We recommend all our clients take the following steps with respect to documentation provided by tenants.
- Contact the employer or physician and ask how you can send the letter to the employer or health care provider for verification. Please have the tenant’s birthdate, full name and possibly Social Security Number available when you contact the employer or physician’s office.
- Ask the letter writer to confirm that a letter was written on date X (the date on the letter) indicating whatever it states for your tenant. If the letter is confirmed, we have a COVID hardship and a delay in the writ. If the letter writer denies writing the letter, please request a statement to that effect. Our goal is to receive written confirmation if the letter is forged.
Some COVID hardships are not on-going. For instance, if a tenant was required to quarantine for 14 days because he/she came into contact with a COVID positive individual, after the 14-day quarantine period, the hardship may well be completed, and the writ can issue. This is obviously not the case for a chronic high-risk health condition, but may apply if a tenant finds new employment or has his/her hours brought back to full time.
The Pima County Justice Court right now is issuing the orders for the Writ of Restitution within five days when the judgment is granted. We can apply for the writ on the writ date and suggest that our client’s do so if either 1. There is no mention of a COVID hardship by the tenant or 2. You have confirmed the claim of a COVID hardship is invalid.
If you have a confirmed COVID hardship, we suggest waiting until the end of October to file for the Writ, unless the Tenant’s COVID hardship status changes. We are prepared to file the proper documentation when the Moratorium is finally lifted to ensure the issuance of the Writ of Restitution.
The Pima County Constables are currently going out to serve the writ and leaving documentation with the tenant about how to apply for a COVID hardship and returning possibly several days later. The writs are rarely being executed immediately by the Constables in Pima County.
If it appears the Constable will not execute the writ, please contact our office immediately and we will file a Motion with the Court asking the Court to Compel the Constable to serve the writ. If or when this is granted by the court the Constable must serve the writ. The tenant will be given an opportunity to present any evidence regarding a COVID hardship to the court, and you will be given the opportunity to present your evidence. The tenant may file a motion with the court to stop the writ. You have a right to respond this motion and to be heard. Again, the matter should be set for a hearing and both sides should be given an opportunity to present their evidence. If the tenant does not present any COVID hardship information in their initial motion the court may deny it without hearing at which time we can submit the information to the Constable regarding the need to serve the Writ of Restitution.
So, what does all the above mean and how do you digest this information?
- If a tenant indicates they have a COVID hardship, check their documentation immediately (unless it is clearly obvious that they have a health condition that meets the requirements for a COVID hardship).
- Notify our office immediately if you receive documentation for your tenant either confirming a COVID hardship or showing a false claim of a COVID hardship.
- Keep us posted on the status of writs with the constables. Please get the Constable’s name and phone number when the arrive for the initial visit with regard to the Writ of Restitution.
- Don’t expect a Writ of Restitution to be completed in a short time frame. It could take weeks.
- Remember we are here to help. This new process as with so many things related to COVID is placing additional burdens on landlords and property managers. We can help you sort through things.