Late last week, in the waning days of the legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill that would give landlords the ability to evict tenants who pay their rents with assistance from the federal government’s Section 8 housing voucher program.
Rep. Ben Toma, R-Peoria, said previously that he introduced House Bill 2358 at the request of the Arizona Multihousing Association, a trade group for large rental properties.
Toma said the bill is a response to a Maricopa County Superior Court ruling from last year.
The crux of the ruling was that, if a landlord accepts a rental housing voucher payment that counts as partial payment, a tenant is protected under Arizona law from eviction.
Proponents of the measure said that, under the current law, landlords cannot evict someone for violence or domestic violence if they accept a rental assistance payment. However, the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence is neutral on the bill.
Additionally, it also states that if a rental agreement is terminated, a landlord can take up a claim for possession and rent and a separate claim for damages from a tenant, something that many landlords already do.
Under Toma’s proposal, a landlord could say that rental assistance does not constitute a rent payment, and then evict the tenant – even as it keeps the money.
The original bill also included assistance from churches and community based organizations, but the version that was sent to Gov. Doug Ducey exempts faith-based organizations and community action agencies.
Payments from government agencies, public housing authorities and from third parties on behalf of a government agency are not exempt.
The bill passed the House on a 35-25 vote and passed the Senate 19-7.
According to data collected by Arizona’s 211 system, 162 of Toma’s constituents called 211 for help with housing assistance last year.