Real Estate is hot in Nashville. That’s not a news flash. In fact, unless you were burned in the economic downtown, you’ve probably always thought that real estate is a safe investment, either has an appreciating asset or as an income producing asset.
With high-end real estate, the income possibilities in this current market are endless. Short term rentals to tourists on AirBNB. Long term leases to health care executives. Leases to country music stars or professional athletes.
Well, one Nashville couple has learned the hard way that leases to star football players may require a greater security deposit.
In a lawsuit filed against former Tennessee Titan running back Zach Brown, a landlord for rental property has sued in Nashville’s Davidson Chancery Court (Rental Lawsuit), alleging failure to pay rent. After they were awarded a judgment in a prior detainer action, they were surprised to find the property in terrible condition, the lawsuit alleges.
The $59,286.85 in damages alleged includes claims of: animal teeth marks on staircases and doors; stains on carpet; “damage to the walls by what appears to be repeated throws of footballs and darts;” holes in the wall; and door frame damage “from where it appears a locked door was forced open.”
These are just allegations, but, long story short, a property owner opens the door to deterioration and damage when he or she rents to a stranger. There’s no such thing as easy money, and the landlord / tenant model has its fair share of risks.
A few weeks ago, I talked about detainer warrants and how fast a landlord can get an eviction hearing set (a minimum of six days from service of process).
A caveat, however, is that many courts will allow continuances, especially when a plaintiff has set a hearing on such short notice. Some courts, like Davidson County, have Local Rules that expressly allow some continuances.
But, the ability to get a continuance in detainer actions isn’t absolute. Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-18-118 provides that the “general sessions judge may, at the request of either party, and on good reason being assigned, postpone the trial to any time not exceeding fifteen (15) days.”
In eviction actions, a landlord isn’t getting paid, so the delay costs the landlord both time and money.
Tennessee’s General Sessions Courts provide the fastest justice in the state. There, a plaintiff can file a lawsuit and, potentially, have a judgment in as early as 2-3 weeks.
No plaintiffs, however, are as eager to get to court than landlords. A common question I get is: What is the quickest court date a landlord can get?
The answer is in Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-18-117, which provides: “The officer serving the warrant shall notify the defendant of the time and place of trial, the time not to be less than six (6) days from the date of service.”
So, in order to have a valid eviction lawsuit, you have to provide–at a minimum–six days notice from the date of service of process.
Note: This timeline is for commercial property evictions. Residential evictions are governed by the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act , and that is it’s own blog post.
Landlording is a hard business. If you don’t think so, wait until the first time you have to sue your tenant to evict them.
In Tennessee, the process is done by a “detainer” warrant, and it’s a full blown court proceeding, which is generally done in General Sessions Court.
In these proceedings, the landlord wants the proceeding resolved as soon as possible, while the tenant wants to stretch out the proceeding as long as possible. Who doesn’t like to live rent free, right?
Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-18-118 provides some protection for landlords. That statute allows the judge to continue a matter, but only to a time not exceeding 15 days.
The only exception the statute provides that would allow for a longer period of time is: (1) if the parties agree to a longer time; (2) the 15 days ends at a time when there’s no court; or (3) the party asking for the continuance pays “the costs.” (Here, the costs means they pay, at the time of the request, the rent due for that period, plus any other amounts due/incurred during that period.)
So, the tenant might get a delay–note that the statute isn’t absolute, it says “may”–but there’s an absolute limit to the delay. No Tennessee case–published or unpublished–provides any exception that allows for a longer continuance to this statute.
Across the country, lenders are fighting claims from borrowers that the lender’s foreclosure on real property was defective. In response, courts will sometimes entertain an examination of the specifics of the foreclosure. Regardless of the outcome, the lender is invariably faced with delay in obtaining a deficiency judgment or the costs of litigating these issues.
On January 31, 2011, the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued a decision finding that such claims by a borrower will not be considered, where the lender has filed a post-foreclosure unlawful detainer warrant in General Sessions Court and obtained an eviction judgment. If the homeowner does not raise the defective foreclosure in the General Sessions Court, then the decision is “res judicata” on any subsequent action.
Keith Dennen, a great lawyer in my firm, pointed me to this decision. In his words (as was most of this post): “A quick and cheap way to clear title on property. Also, you serve the detainer warrant by nailing it to the door of the property — no chasing the elusive occupants around the world trying to get service.”
Cite: Robert E. Davis, et. al, v. Crawford L. Williams, et. al, No. E2010-01139-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. Apps. Jan. 31, 2011).