azcap-atuOn April 13th of this year Gov. Doug Ducey quietly signed a bill that allows a landlord to evict a tenant’s roommate who is not on the lease without any due process whatsoever, just by calling the police and having the roommate removed.  Under SB 1185, which has received virtually no media attention, a landlord will, as of July 1, be able to bypass A.R.S. Section  33-1368, which requires the landlord to give a tenant who is violating his lease a 10-day opportunity to cure the violation, and if the tenant doesn’t do so, to take the tenant to court.  Instead, a landlord can now simply call the police and have the roommate removed even if the roommate is paying rent!  Under SB 1185 landlords are not required to give any notice whatsoever for removing roommates, or for calling law enforcement to remove roommates.

The new law also applies to guests.  It doesn’t give any length of time for which a guest is allowed to stay.  Thus, it could effectively permit a landlord to call the police on anyone he sees walking into your apartment whom he doesn’t like.

The law only applies to tenants who have leases that exclude additional occupants.  If a tenant has a lease that allows an additional occupant, then the previous rules remain in effect: the prime tenant is essentially in a landlord/tenant relationship with the subtenant (roommate), and the prime tenant is required to use due process and go through the court system to evict the roommate.  Similarly, in most month-to-month tenancies, a landlord has no say in how many tenants can be in the apartment: he gave up that right when he accepted rent without a contract.

But what this new law does is it treats an embedded, rent-paying subtenant who is not on the lease like a guest.  Generally speaking, guests who stay for a few days in an apartment and don’t pay rent are not considered tenants, and are exempt from the landlord/tenant act.  Landlords (or prime tenants) have always been able to remove them without due process.  But under SB 1185 any roommate who is not on a lease can be treated by the landlord as a guest, even if he is paying rent.

What is so sad about this legislation is that it passed so quietly, unnoticed either by the press or by the tenants’ rights community.  This is horrible new law that will result in many, many people who have paid their rent being wrongly evicted.  This is why we need a vibrant, active culture of tenants rights and tenant organizing in Arizona to stop travesties like this from happening.  If we had known about this bill we could have marshalled our members to write letters, hold demonstrations, picket, or take other actions needed to make this a public issue.  You know, when I came to Arizona in the 1990s after participating in the tenants moement in New York and Chicago, I found it unbelievable that there was no government or social service infrastructure to help tenants.  It was up to me, one guy, a carpetbagger fresh from the East Coast, to bring tenants rights and activism to Arizona.  The Arizona Tenants Union is the current incarnation of that movement.  We are the only non-profit, membership-driven, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) tenants rights organization that exists or has ever existed in Arizona.  Join the tenants union today and help keep tenants’ rights at the forefront of struggles for social justice in Arizona.