Nobles Law Firm

Filing an answer in an eviction case isn’t enough

fall-072-1-e1400873609714As most landlords in Pulaski County know by now, the Arkansas criminal eviction statute in that area can no longer be used because a circuit judge struck it down as unconstitutional.

That means the civil evictions statute has to be used in Pulaski County and there seems to be some confusion about what that means. Renters, in particular, seem confused over the bifurcated nature of a civil eviction.

When a landlord files a civil eviction, he or she is asking the court for two things – a writ of possession to deliver the dwelling to the property owner and a judgment for monetary damages. The “writ of possession” part of that process has caused all kinds of confusion for a couple of reasons – the renter must object to it and pay past due rent into the registry of the court within five days of being served with the eviction complaint.

When I say five days, that includes the day on which the complaint was served and Saturdays, but not holidays or Sundays. Let’s say, for example, that a tenant is served with the complaint on a Friday. The tenant, then, would have until the close of business on the following Wednesday to file an answer to that complaint and deposit the past due rent into the registry of the court.

If no answer is filed within five days, the landlord can get a writ of possession and take back the dwelling. Also, the landlord can probably get a writ issued if no rent is deposited into the registry of the court even if an answer has been field in time. It is important to mention these facts as a good number of tenants either think they have 30 days to file an answer or they do object to the issuance of the writ of possession within five days but they don’t realize that failure to pay back rent is typically enough to cause the court to enter the writ immediately.

Why do tenants think they have 30 days to file an answer? That is because Arkansas laws allows tenants 30 days to object to the part of the action in which the landlord asks the court to enter an order demanding the tenant to pay back rent and money to cover any damage done to the property.

The point? The elimination of the criminal eviction statute in Pulaski County and the substitution of the civil process has caused some confusion. It’s a great idea for both landlords and tenants to have an understanding of how the process works just in case they have to deal with it at some point.

This column was authored by Ethan C. Nobles and originally appeared in the Aug. 11, 2015, edition of the Daily Record in Little Rock.

2 thoughts on “Filing an answer in an eviction case isn’t enough

  1. Raymond Dismukes

    What happens to property, such as a car that won’t run, that is left behind when the renter vacates the property, but claims to be trying to get the car running?

  2. Ethan Post author

    Please keep in mind that the advice I’m about to give is worth exactly what you’ve paid for it.

    That said, you are talking about abandoned property. To be safe, I would make it clear to the renter (the former renter, I suppose) that he or she has 30 days to remove the vehicle from your property. Make sure the property is freely available to the renter and there are no obstacles to picking it up and make sure you have documented that you have been in touch with the renter and that he or she has 30 days to pick up the property.

    If the renter doesn’t pick up that property after 30 days, I would argue that you are free to do with it what you want. After all, you made it freely available to the renter, the renter failed to pick it up and we are talking about something that is on your property. If you have made a valid attempt to make that property available to the renter, what other choice do you have?

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