A Bill In Arizona Is Being Discussed By Politicians That Would Allow Property Owners To Get Rid Of Squatters

A Bill In Arizona Is Being Discussed By Politicians That Would Allow Property Owners To Get Rid Of Squatters

THE PHOENIX — Lawmakers in the state are almost done passing a bill that will make it easier for property owners to get renters out of their homes.

But a major Democrat lawmaker said she is worried that the suggested fix for the problem some homeowners are having could be used as a weapon by people who hurt domestic partners and force victims to leave their homes.

Sen. Wendy Rogers said her bill is meant to fix a problem that is getting worse.

“When you go on vacation and come home to an empty house, you think,” the Flagstaff Republican told his colleagues. “When you get home, squatters are living on your land.”

These aren’t tenants who have been there longer than agreed. There are parts of the Arizona Landlord and Tenant Act that cover that, such as getting a court order.
Rogers said that the rule as it stands now doesn’t really allow the police to tell if the people in the house don’t have permission to be there. Most of the time, property owners have to go to court, which can cost a lot of time and money and keep someone in the house, which could damage it.

In Tucson, Sen. Justine Wadsack, R, said this is a real issue.

“As a real estate agent, I had to start carrying a gun with me everywhere,” she said. “I have gone into some of these townhouses and homes and seen that they were broken into, with furniture smashed and people urinating and defecating inside.”

Wadsack said that was only part of the problem.

“It’s scary when you turn the corner, expecting to show your buyer the third bedroom, and you see someone who is basically taking possession of someone else’s property,” she said. Wadsack said that when people call the cops, they are told that there isn’t much they can do.
She said that the current rules make it take time to get rid of someone.

As Rogers wrote it, SB 1129 would let a property owner who has someone living on their property who won’t leave give cops a signed affidavit saying the person doesn’t pay rent, doesn’t own or rent the property, and doesn’t have the right to be there.

An cop could then tell the person to leave based on that. If the owner doesn’t, the person who lives there can be charged with theft.
There was language in the plan, though, that said someone who is wrongfully removed can sue for damages.
SB 1129 passed the Senate with 18 votes for and 8 votes against.

It was different when the bill reached the House, though.

One lawyer for Wildfire, which used to be called the Arizona Community Action Association, Maxine Becker told the House Judiciary Committee, “We don’t have a philosophical problem.” “Certainly, anyone who is in a house without a legal right to be there should be able to leave quickly.”

She did say, though, that there are already a number of rules in place to deal with trespassers and “unwanted guests.”

More importantly, Becker said, is how the law could be used against people who are abused at home.

She said that some women in shelters have been told by the cops or their abusers that they have to leave, even though the law says they don’t have to.
“This makes that official,” Becker said of the law.

Rep. Analise Ortiz paid attention to that.

When the bill got to the full House, the Democrat from Phoenix told his colleagues that they should not only listen to Wildfire, but also the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which is against SB 1129. Ortiz also said that the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police is against it because their officers would be doing the evictions.
Ortiz also said there are other problems.

She also said, “It’s not enough to protect legal tenants,” since the bill that was passed by the Senate doesn’t require proof of ownership or the legal right to speak for the owner. Ortiz also said that the person living there shouldn’t be able to give false information to refute the statement before being taken away.

She said, “That’s where the worry comes in about survivors of intimate partner violence who may still be living with an abuser and how this SB 1129 could be used against them.”
Leo Biasiucci, the majority leader of the House, did agree to add some parts to the bill that the Senate passed.

For instance, the new wording says that the owner of a property must first sign an affidavit swearing under oath that he or she is the owner or an authorized agent and that the resident refused to leave when asked to.

It was also written by Biasiucci so that the bill’s removal option would not work if the person living there is related to the property owner. It would be the same if there was a “prior verbal or written agreement to cohabitate with the property owner in the residential dwelling.”

But Ortiz said that is still not enough to protect victims.

“It is full of contradictions and law enforcement’s unclear duties,” she said. Ortiz said that includes making sure beyond a doubt that the person signing the affidavit and asking for the eviction is the formal owner of the property.

She also said that the new wording doesn’t really protect people who live together.

“How do you show that you agreed in person?” she asked. Ortiz said that those in favor should have worked together with Wildife and the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence to find answers, since they were the groups that knew the most about the problem.

The bill needs to be looked over by senators after the changes were made in the House. The bill would then be sent to Gov. Katie Hobbs if they agree.

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