Remedies for Landlords
As a landlord, you must be thoroughly knowledgeable about the laws and procedures required to
evict a tenant lawfully. The following is basic guidance that you need to know; it is not intended to
serve as legal advice, which should be obtained from a qualified attorney as necessary:
The Justice of the Peace Court has exclusive jurisdiction over an eviction, which involves what is
commonly known as a "forcible entry and detainer" (FED). An FED takes place when an individual
enters the premises of another without legal authority or by force and refuses to surrender it on
demand. A demand to vacate the premises must first be given to the tenant in writing by the
landlord regardless of whether or not the lease is in writing or is just based on an oral agreement.
The length of time a landlord must wait before filing an eviction complaint with the court normally is
noted on the lease; if it is not, the law requires a three day notice. Click *here to access and print
the form. If an individual (typically the tenant) has taken possession of the premises by forcible
entry, the landlord can demand possession orally and is not required to wait the three day period
before filing the eviction complaint with the court.
When filing, the landlord should identify the leased premises and state the facts which entitle
the landlord to the possession. After the landlord files the complaint alleging a forcible detainer
and pays a fee, the J.P. will issue a citation which then will be served by the Constable Department.
The citation can be served on the tenant or on anyone on the premises who is 16 years of age or over.
The citation will include a court appearance date/time and a copy of the complaint. The appearance
date cannot be more than 10 days nor fewer than 6 days from the date the citation is served.
If the Constable Department is unable to serve the tenant in person after a minimum of two
attempts, the officer can effect what is known as "substitute service" by posting the citation on
the door of the premises; the Constable then will mail a copy of the documents to the tenant not
later than the following day of the substitute service.
If the occupants fail to comply, the Constable is authorized by law to remove them physically. The
Constable also will instruct the tenant or landlord to remove all personal property from the premises. If
the landlord removes the property, he/she must ensure the property either will be stored at a bonded
warehouse or moved to a nearby location but not blocking a public sidewalk or street; in any event, the
property must not be moved outdoors while it is raining, sleeting, or snowing. The landlord must employ
a sufficient number of persons to remove the property; under no circumstances can the Constable
assist in removing the property.
After the eviction suit is filed with the court, the landlord can file a possession bond in an amount fixed by the court, which will
depend on the anticipated amount the defendant would be damaged in the event that the eviction suit was not properly effected.
This bond will allow the landlord to take possession of the premises immediately after the expiration of six days from the date
the tenant is served notice of the filing, unless the tenant demands a trial or files a counterbond within six days. If the tenant
demands a trial or posts a counterbond within six days but the J.P. rules in favor of the landlord, the tenant has five days to move
out of the premises. An eviction hearing is fairly informal, where the judge will pose questions to both parties. If the tenant
loses, he/she will have five days before a writ of possession can be executed to remove the tenant from the premises. If the
landlord receives a judgment for possession from the court, on the sixth day after the judgment is signed, the landlord can have
the judgment executed through a writ of possession. The writ will command the Constable to instruct the tenant and all other
occupants to leave the premises immediately.