Mar 8, 2023 - Real Estate

Metro Phoenix eviction writs spiked above pre-pandemic levels

Data: Maricopa County Justice Courts; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Maricopa County Justice Courts; Chart: Axios Visuals

More renters were removed from apartments and rental homes through the eviction process last year than before the pandemic, according to new data from the Maricopa County Justice Courts.

State of play: Landlords filed roughly the same number of evictions in 2022 as 2019, the most recent year not impacted by pandemic-related eviction moratoriums.

  • Yes, but: Total writs issued by the courts, which enable a constable to forcibly remove someone from their home, increased by about 10% in 2022 compared to 2019.

Catch up quick: Just because a landlord files for eviction, doesn't mean a renter will be forced out. Often, the tenant pays up after the filing and keeps their housing or moves out before they're evicted.

  • When a writ is issued, it's much more likely a renter will actually lose their home.

Why it matters: Metro Phoenix has an extreme housing shortage, which means landlords often have their pick of tenants — and they're less likely to rent to someone with an eviction on their record.

  • This forces evicted people to double up with family or friends, or in extreme cases, lose housing entirely.

What's happening: It's unclear what caused the increase in writs last year, but it's likely a combination of factors, justice courts spokesperson Scott Davis said.

  • "The only explanations we have for that are guesses: Because rents are more expensive now than they were three years ago, perhaps evicted tenants are taking longer to move out and perhaps landlords are less willing to wait," he said in an email.

Zoom out: The rental market was tight in 2019, but was increasingly strained at the peak of the pandemic as more people moved to the Valley and home and apartment construction failed to keep up.

  • In 2022, the rental vacancy rate was 3.8% — the lowest it'd been in 20 years, the Phoenix Business Journal reported. This created a supply-and-demand problem that's pushed the average rental price up more than 40% since 2019.

What they're saying: Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus, president and CEO of the Arizona Multihousing Association — the largest landlord group in the state — said the increase in writs may be related to rental demand.

  • "We have heard from property owners who, having done what they can to work with someone not paying rent, have chosen to proceed with an eviction because so many other deserving renters who also need a home are competing for that same space," she said in a statement.

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