What is the next step after getting possession in court?
Okay, so you’ve had your court date and obtained possession from the court. The result is the same whether the tenant failed to appear in court, the tenant appeared and agreed to possession, or the court ruled in your favor — a judgment was rendered that restores the possession to you as the rightful owner.
When does the court ruling take effect?
The court ruling is not final for an additional ten days, with the day after the hearing date counting as the first day. As a simple example, if you obtained possession on the 4th of the month, then the ten-day period begins on the 5th, and judgment is final on the 15th.
What are we actually waiting for?
We are waiting to see if the tenant appeals the ruling. Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-5-101 states that “[a]ny person dissatisfied with the judgment of a recorder or other officer of a municipality charged with the conduct of trials, in a civil action, may, within ten (10) entire days thereafter, Sundays exclusive, appeal to the next term of circuit court.”
There are two kinds of appeals to evictions, one of which only appeals the amount of a money judgment (direct appeal), and the other will allow the tenant to remain in the property for the duration of the litigation (writs of certiorari and supersedeas), but the latter appeal requires that the plaintiff to post an appeal bond of double the value of one year’s rent, so this basically never occurs. For more information on appeals of evictions, see Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-18-128 et. seq.
What does it mean to say that the judgment is final?
The most important result of the judgment becoming final is that you can now re-enter the property if the tenant has left. If the tenant has let, you can stop here — enjoy having your property back! If not, keep reading….
But didn’t the judge tell them to leave? Why might they still be there?
Unfortunately, not every tenant leaves like they are supposed to – you might drive by after the judgment has become final and see that the tenant has not moved the first thing out of the property. The issue for the court is that although you now have possession of the property itself, you cannot go change the locks and lock the tenant away from all of their belongings.
Can’t I just call the police and get the tenant arrested for criminal trespass?
No, the police will tell you that this is a civil procedure, and that the correct procedure for forcible removal is the process that I’m describing here.
Well then, what am I supposed to do next?
When the tenant is still in the property, you must file a Writ of Possession with the court. You can use either a private process server or the Sheriff to handle this service. The person you hire will go to your property, present the Writ to the tenant, and supervise while the tenant’s property is removed from the home?
Who moves the tenant’s property out of the house?
The Sheriff is not responsible to move the tenant’s property out of the house. Even if you hire a private process server, he or she cannot supervise the process and move the tenant’s property. The server can either hire a moving crew or you can hire a moving crew. Most of them charge by the hour.
Where do the tenants go?
The short answer is anywhere but inside your property. Your relationship has ended with the tenant at this point. They can either stay for the purpose of removing their personal property, or they can leave the premises – but they cannot re-enter the premises.
Where do I put the tenant’s personal belongings and for how long does it have to sit there?
Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-18-127(b)(1) states that:
(1)”[u]pon removing the defendant in any judgment under this chapter, the plaintiff or a designated representative of the plaintiff, shall place the defendant’s personal property:
(A) On the premises from which the defendant is being removed;
(B) In an appropriate area clear of the entrance to the premises; and
(C) At a reasonable distance from any roadway.
(2) The plaintiff or a designated representative of the plaintiff shall not disturb the defendant’s personal property for forty-eight (48) hours. After such forty-eight (48) hours, the remaining personal property of the defendant may be discarded by the plaintiff or a designated representative of the plaintiff.”
Why do I have to do all of this?
The simplest answer is that it’s because the law. Imagine that you enter the property on the day that the court granted possession. The tenant then sues you for wrongful eviction, seeking damages for the value of their belongings and punitive damages. While they will still have to prove their case, the court will already be upset with you for failing to observe the law, and the judge can ‘punish’ you by making you pay a bunch of money to the tenant who still owes you six months of rent – that wouldn’t be much fun. In fact, you could even be responsible to pay for the attorney that the tenant uses to sue you. Furthermore, the court doesn’t just ‘take it out of the money that the tenant owes you’ — the court would grant a separate judgment against you, which will destroy your credit.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-28-504 states that “[i] the landlord unlawfully removes or excludes the tenant from the premises or willfully diminishes services to the tenant by interrupting essential services as provided in the rental agreement to the tenant, the tenant may recover possession or terminate the rental agreement and, in either case, recover actual damages sustained by the tenant, and punitive damages when appropriate, plus a reasonable attorney’s fee. If the rental agreement is terminated under this section, the landlord shall return all prepaid rent and security deposits.”
Okay, I’m convinced. Let’s get started on that Writ.
If the ten days have passed (see above), and you haven’t been able to convince the tenant to leave and must proceed by force, then call James Karr at (901) 826-7994 and he’ll start the process immediately. You can also call the Sheriff, but I do not recommend doing this, as it will take much longer. Afterward, be sure to change the locks on the house.