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Ducey delays small-business evictions during COVID-19 outbreak

Small business tenants can't be evicted because they can't pay rent during the coronavirus outbreak, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered Monday.

Under the order, effective until May 31, commercial landlords cannot evict, lock out or otherwise "attempt to inhibit the operations" of a small business that is unable to pay rent due to financial hardships caused by the pandemic.

Small businesses are defined as those with fewer than 500 employees, that are eligible for the federal Paycheck Protection Program. The governor's order covers businesses of all types, including sole proprietorships, LLCs and corporations, nonprofits and independent contractors.

The order does not relieve any business of the obligation to pay rent, but the Republican governor told landlords to "consider" waiving late fees and reducing rents, and commercial mortgage lenders "shall consider providing an opportunity for a forbearance" for a landlord with tenants who are unable to pay rent during the pandemic.

Business renters who receive public financial assistance designed to alleviate the financial hardships of the pandemic "shall apply a portion of eligible assistance to any past or currently due rents," Ducey ordered, but blocked landlords from requiring any specific percentages or amounts of assistance be used to pay rent.

Ducey's order, like his previous mandate to stem evictions of residential tenants, contains a loophole for landlords: it allows for an eviction to proceed if a "court determines on motion of one of the parties that it is contrary to the interest of justice" to not allow the eviction to take place.

Prior to Ducey's residential order, constables in Pima County declared that they would not serve eviction writs, citing the threat of transmitting coronavirus due to the many households they contact daily.

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