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IV. Summons and service of complaint

The court issues a summons the day the landlord files a complaint. The summons should contain all of the names of known and unknown tenants (use “John Doe” or “Mary Doe” if unknown) listed on the complaint. The summons must be served along with the complaint at least two business days before the trial.

The landlord must make arrangements to have the summons and complaint served in person by the sheriff, constable or private process server. If this method is unsuccessful, service can be completed by posting the summons and complaint on the front door of the rental unit if these documents also are sent the same day by registered or certified mail to the tenant’s last known address. The tenant will be assumed to have received it three days after mailing.

The summons and complaint must be served at least two business days before the trial. The summons requires the tenant(s) to appear in court and respond to the complaint.

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V. Trial and defenses


Trial must be held no sooner than three and no later than six business days after the complaint was filed.

If the landlord accepts payment of all rent due and reasonable late fees identified in the written agreement, attorney fees and court costs, the rental agreement is reinstated and the case will be dismissed.

The landlord should bring all relevant documents for the action to the trial. This may include the written rental agreement, a copy of the five day notice, proof of service or hand-delivery, proof of certified or registered mailing of notice, receipt book or rental payment records showing when rent was due and how much tenant owed through the established rental period, and any other documents the landlord wants the judge to see. Witnesses, if appropriate, also should be present at the trial so the court can hear all the evidence at one time.


The tenant may plead guilty or not guilty. “Guilty” means the defendant/tenant agrees everything in the landlord’s complaint is true and the tenant has no defense against the eviction. “Not guilty” means the tenant has a legal defense to the eviction complaint.

The tenant should bring rent receipts and all papers he/she wants the judge to see and any witnesses who can provide relevant information.

The trial will be on the same day as the plea if held in justice court, or a few days later if in superior court. Any request to postpone a trial must be made in writing under oath. The justice of the peace or judge of the superior court will consider the request and may grant the continuance for a brief period, based upon “good cause shown.”

The tenant can respond in writing to the landlord’s complaint, but may go to trial without sending a written answer. To file a written answer, the tenant must pay a fee set by law. The tenant must appear in court at the trial to explain any legal defense to the judge. If the tenant fails to appear at the trial, the court can enter an automatic plea of guilty for the tenant and enter a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff/landlord.

The tenant can show as possible defenses: rent not yet due; five day notice not properly given; complaint filed before the five day notice expired; summons improperly served; retaliation by the landlord; rent already paid by the tenant; full rent payment including late fees and applicable costs refused by the landlord; or some other breach of rental agreement by the landlord.

The tenant may file a counterclaim against the landlord in writing for any money he/she is entitled to arising out of the rental agreement or the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. Fees must be paid to file a counterclaim.

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VI. Judgment by court and eviction order


If, after the trial or hearing, the tenant is to be evicted, the judge shall order:

a. rent due as provided in the rental agreement; and/or,
b. any charges due as allowed by the rental agreement.

The judge also may order:
a. attorney fees, filing fees and jury fees against the tenant;
b. damages alleged and proven.

The landlord can garnish or otherwise collect amounts due from the tenant even after the tenant is evicted or leaves. Garnishment actions follow specific procedures and processes. Forms and general information are available from the clerk’s office.

To evict the tenant, the landlord must go back to court after the trial and have the court issue an eviction order called a Writ of Restitution. An eviction order is issued no earlier than the sixth calendar day after judgment if the tenant has not moved out of the rental unit. The order instructs the sheriff or constable to evict the tenant. A fee will be charged by them to serve the Writ.

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VII. Appeals

Either party can appeal the decision of the court. There are several different elements to an appeal, and additional costs may be incurred.

To appeal the decision, contact the clerk’s office in the court where the case was heard.

25 August 2009 ©2002 Arizona Supreme Court.  All Rights Reserved. Top of Page