Nobles Law Firm

No, not all evictions go quickly

evictionTypically, it takes a landlord less than a month to evict a tenant for violating his or her lease but that is not always the case.

In Arkansas, the eviction process is very straightforward. The landlord serves the tenant a three-day notice to quit which states, essentially, to get out or risk being sued. If the tenant refuses to leave, the landlord typically hires an attorney to start an eviction proceeding. The tenant is served with a complaint and a notice that the court will issue a writ of possession within five days unless the tenant files an answer.

Usually, the tenant fails to file an answer and the landlord can ask the court to issue a writ of possession. That writ of possession, once served, gives the tenant 24 hours to pack up and leave or risk being escorted from the property by the local sheriff’s office.

That entire process can take as little as two weeks but can take as long as three weeks or a month if the tenant is good at dodging process servers. If the landlord wants a judgment against the tenant for past due rent and damages, you’re looking at 30 days from service until that can be obtained.

Of course, there are times when that process is delayed considerably – if the tenant files and answer and sets the issue for a hearing, then it could take months. While the law says the tenant should keep paying rent during the pendency of the action, they rarely do and that can be frustrating for landlords – they’ve got holdover tenants that are essentially living for free until the court tells them to leave.

The point of all this is that most evictions – probably at least nine out of every 10 – go smoothly and the holdover tenant is removed quickly. Once the tenant is gone, the landlord can look at renting the dwelling to someone else and get back to having property that is generating income.

There are times, however, when the eviction process takes longer because the tenant fights it. Landlords should, then, be optimistic that the eviction process will go quickly but should be prepared to wait if the tenant resists.

Landlords should also make sure they understand how much a total eviction could cost. If the attorney quotes a fee, what all does that include? Does the fee go up considerably if the matter has to be fought in court? If so, then how much could it ultimately cost?

Understanding on the front end how much an eviction could cost and how long it could take will save a lot of frustration down the road.

This column — part of the Practical Lawyer series — was authored by Ethan C. Nobles and originally appeared in the April 18, 2016, edition of the Daily Record in Little Rock.

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