1. What is a forcible entry and detainer?
  2. Can I use an FED action after I have taken title at a trustee’s sale?
  3. How do I start a forcible entry and detainer action?
  4. What is the issue for trial?
  5. Can I file a forcible detainer action without a lawyer?
  6. Why must the old homeowner or occupant plead “guilty” of a forcible entry and detainer?
  7. How long does it take to complete a forcible entry and detainer action?
  8. Can I just offer the occupant money to leave without having to file a forcible entry and detainer?
  9. How do I terminate the tenancy?

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Can I file a forcible detainer action without a lawyer? You can file a forcible entry and detainer action in either Justice or Superior Courts. An individual can file an action without an attorney, so long as they are filing on their own behalf, not on behalf of their corporation or another person. The process is not extremely complicated, but the procedures must be followed in precise order. If there is any deviation the judge will ask that you start the process over. Using an attorney experienced in this particular area will save you time, money and aggravation.

Why must the old homeowner or occupant plead “guilty” of a forcible entry and detainer? The definition of a forcible entry is “anyone who retains possession of any land, tenements or other real property after he receives written demand to surrender that possession.” Therefore, any occupant who refuses to leave property after they have received the appropriate notice to vacate can be found “guilty of a forcible entry and detainer”.

How long does it take to complete a forcible entry and detainer action? There is no stock answer to that question. Normally the process after a trustee’s sale is the following:

Get a copy of the Trustee’s Deed and serve it on the occupant of the property. Include the appropriate notice to vacate, how you took title and giving the requisite period to vacate – either 5 or 7 days.

If, after the 5 to 7 days the occupant still refuses to vacate, then file a complaint, summons and civil cover sheet with the court (either Justice or Superior).

Obtain a date for the hearing at the time of filing the complaint and serve all documents on the occupant within 24 hours. That hearing date is usually within 10 days of the filing of the complaint.

File proof of personal service with the Court and bring a copy to the hearing.

At the hearing you must set forth the facts as to how you took title to the property, provide proof that you served the initial demand letter and proof that you served the complaint and summons within the requisite period.

If there is no objection then the Judge will sign a Judgment giving the occupant 5 judicial days (regular work days) to vacate the property.

If the occupant still refused to vacate then you will need to contact the Sheriff, provide him with a conformed copy of the Judgment, plus the Writ of Restitution, along with the fees for his service.

The sheriff will then service additional notice to the occupant giving them 3 days to vacate.

If the occupant still refused to vacate then you must make arrangements to have a moving van, movers, the sheriff and any other necessary people (locksmith, animal control) all meet you at the property to coordinate removing the occupant and their possessions.

You would be very wise to video tape the property and all the personal possessions as they are being packed.

You may store the occupant’s personal possessions in the unoccupied dwelling unit that was abandoned by the tenant, in any other available unit or any storage space owned by the landlord or off the premises if a dwelling unit or storage space is not available. You are required to notify the tenant of the location of the personal property pursuant to subsection A of A.R.S. § 33-1370.

Can I just offer the occupant money to leave without having to file a forcible entry and detainer? Absolutely, in fact I suggest this as the first option. Consider offering the occupant a small amount of money to vacate. Perhaps the amount that you would be spending if you brought the forcible entry and detainer action. This agreement could be a win-win for both of you. You will save money, time and aggravation, perhaps the property will be in better condition and the occupant will receive some sorely needed moving cash. But beware the occupant that is just buying additional time and never intends on moving until the Sheriff is at his door.
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