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Topic Tuesday



Our first civil matter is evictions. Evictions are known as unlawful detainers to attorneys. In the past, the Columbia County Sheriff's Office handled evictions as long as a deed or loan paperwork was presented by an owner/operator. Unfortunately, laws changed, and the sheriff's office is no longer able to handle them. The district court doesn't have the authority to handle evictions, so they no longer deal with them either. That brings only one option: the landlord/landowner has to hire an attorney for an eviction. Evictions, or unlawful detainers, go through a circuit court process.

Through gathering information about evictions, the sheriff's office was told that Arkansas is a landlord friendly state. We were also told that it is always a wise choice to have a rental agreement in writing. According to the state of Arkansas, landlords are no longer able to do self-help measures, such as change the locks, on a home that they are renting to an individual or family. Landlords do have the authority to give a written notice asking the tenant to leave before the landlord takes legal action. Basis for evicting a tenant can be anything from not paying rent, destruction of property or failing to maintain the premises, to suspected criminal activity or even the tenant being a nuisance to the neighborhood.

The process of getting an eviction, or an unlawful detainer, differs slightly from situation from situation, but will always follow this procedure: paperwork is drawn up by an attorney based on rental agreement, tenant is served either by a civil process server or a deputy with a complaint (which is just lawsuit paperwork). With an unlawful detainer, the tenant has five days to file an answer with the circuit court clerk, where a normal civil suit has 30 days to file an answer. If the tenant doesn't file an answer in five days, then a writ of possession is done. When the writ is served on the tenant, they have 24 hours to get their belongings from the home. If the tenant does file a response, then there will be a hearing on the case with a judge.

Landlords can seek judgement for back rent or damages done to the home while the tenant lived there or during the course of moving out.

If you have other questions about evictions, please contact an attorney.

Next week, we will spotlight child custody.

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