Eviction Snafu: Court notices arrive after hearing date

Veteran battling serious illnesses gets legal help to fight eviction
Veteran Ron Stone gets legal help to fight eviction
Posted at 12:43 PM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-06 17:24:16-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Ron Stone is a veteran who’s been fighting eviction.

All the while battling a number of illnesses, including PTSD, heart disease, and cancer.

"I was down for almost a month with it from my last surgery and I literally couldn’t lay down. I had to sleep in a chair. It was that painful for me," said Stone.

He’s still working, but the pandemic hit his industry hard and the money he earns can’t cover the full rent.

The CDC eviction moratorium protected him, but the landlord wanted proof of rental assistance and partial payments and took Stone to court.

His eviction case landed on Constable Kristen Randall’s desk.

The landlord, she said, has the right to file what is called a “motion to compel” the eviction.

"So if the constable delays the eviction because of the CDC moratoria, the landlord can go to court and file a motion to contest the CDC letter and the judge sets up a hearing," she explained.

But Stone never got the chance to appear before a judge to prove he was in compliance.

The court notice arrived at his home a day *after the hearing date.

Stone said, “They went ahead and ruled against you because there was a no-show.”

“It’s a really heartbreaking story," said Randall, "And it’s not uncommon.”

She’s been dealing with these cases, including Stone’s.

"The postmark is clear as day. It’s right on there, it’s after the court date," said Randall.

Randall feels for both sides. “Now it’s been about a year of these hard times and people are desperate," she said, "And when I show up at they try to demonstrate to me that they are in compliance, that they’re working or they’re trying to get rental assistance and there really hasn’t been that rental assistance since November, both tenants and landlords are very upset. So those tensions are rising.”

The mailing snafu got the attention of Pima County Supervisor Matt Heinz and he worked to get Stone and others like him legal help.

Heinz said, “It’s so lopsided. This isn’t a traffic citation. Okay, you’re not there. You have to pay the 54 bucks and probably some fees. That’s one thing. Nope, you can’t go back to your house now. The locks have changed and you might be out on the streets.”

Help came from Southern Arizona Legal Aid. An attorney argued Stone had been denied due process.

“They helped us. They got our eviction taken care of and had our case thrown out," said Stone.

Heinz and Randall sounded the alarm, Pima County examined the issue, and the Supervisors recently voted on recommendations that would fix irregularities in the court system and provide more help for tenants and landlords.

Meantime, Stone can breathe a bit easier and concentrate on his health and work.

He's not asking for leniency, but rather this. "A little more consideration in the fact that the world is not working the way it used to and the rules need to take that into consideration," said Stone.

Pima County said it’s expecting more federal dollars, about $30 million, soon to help landlords and tenants.

For more information on the Eviction Protection Program, click here.