When a Forcible Entry and Detainer Action Accrues

A.R.S § 12-542(6) provides a two-year statute of limitations on forcible entry and detainer actions, “which action shall be considered as accruing at the commencement of the forcible entry or detainer.” Does this mean that a forcible entry and detainer (FED) lawsuit must brought within two years from the time the occupant is on the premises illegally? The Arizona Court of Appeals answered this question in Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC v. Woods, 242 Ariz. 455, 397 P.3d 1055 (June 22, 2017).

The Commencement of the Forcible Entry and Detainer

The Woodses lost their home to foreclosure in 2010, but remained on the property for several years. The title owner did not take any action to remove the Woodses until March 2, 2016, when they were served a notice to vacate. The Woodses argued that the action was time-barred because they had been occupying the property without legal permission for more than the two-year statute of limitations.

The court disagreed. A.R.S. § 12-1173.01 provides that a person illegally occupying property may be removed by a forcible entry and detainer action after receiving a written notice of demand for possession. In other words, the court stated that the forcible entry and detainer has not commenced until the notice to vacate has been served.

In this case, the owner served the Woodses with written notice demanding possession of the property in March of 2016.  After the Woodses did not surrender possession, the owner sued for forcible detainer in April 2016—well within the two-year statute of limitations. The forcible entry and detainer action was not time-barred.

While this case clarifies when a forcible entry and detainer action accrues, it also gives a property owner the opportunity to wait as long as they want to enforce their right to possession. This may give the property owner more power, but also gives them flexibility. They may wish to negotiate with the occupant or tenant and allow them to rent the property, at least for a short period of time.

Chernoff Law handles real estate litigation matters throughout Arizona. Contact us by calling 480-719-7307 to discuss your real estate matters.