Update on Evictions and Court Openings

Posted by Stephen Marshall on

As we move towards June 1, I’m getting lots of questions about when evictions can be filed. Here’s where things stand as of today, May 13.

The Governor’s New Position

On Friday, May 8, the Governor issued a new executive order (#2020-323), which you can find here. The bulk of the Order addressed the reopening of certain businesses, but it had one little nugget tucked away in Section Seven that affects landlords.

Section Seven states that evictions from residential premises for failure to pay rent are suspended. This is a change from his earlier Order. So here’s the progression in the Governor’s position:

  • March 25 – All evictions are suspended.
  • April 3 – Evictions may proceed against those who are (1) engaged in dangerous criminal activity or (2) a serious threat to public health if a waiver is granted by the Governor.
  • May 8 – Only residential evictions based on non-payment of rent are suspended. All others may proceed.

This means you no longer need to apply for a waiver with the Governor’s office. When you fill out the online waiver form now, you get a letter stating that “the suspension of evictions only applies to evictions from residential premises for failure to pay rent. Evictions for other reasons may proceed, subject to orders of the Kentucky Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s Current Position

The Kentucky Supreme Court closed the courts to non-emergency hearings until May 31 and declared that the courts will not accept eviction filings until 30 days after the courts open again – which would be July 1.

The Disconnect – the Governor says you may proceed, the Court says you may not.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the frustrating part. The Courts have always been open for emergency proceedings. But even when the Governor only allowed us to move forward with emergency evictions, the Supreme Court would not let us do so.

Now that the state is opening back up and some of you have had tenants engaging in dangerous acts on your property, damaging your property, and disturbing other residents to the point that you’re losing residents, the Supreme Court still will not let us file evictions. That is frustrating.

I don’t blame our local judges or clerks. They’re just following the guidance from the Supreme Court. So that’s where I lay the blame. If you’d like to reach out to them and urge them to amend their order and allow the local courts to accept eviction filings, I think that is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

The Kentucky Supreme Court Justices are elected officials. They may respond to your concerns, they may not. But voicing your concerns to elected officials is always acceptable, as long as it is respectfully done.

But, just to sum up, here’s where we stand:

  • The Governor has said that only residential evictions based on non-payment of rent are suspended. All other evictions may go forward.
  • The Courts are not accepting any eviction filings at all, perhaps until July 1.

A few other quick notes:

  1. Staffing Requirements. The Governor has clarified that property management offices are not required to comply with his 50% staffing directive. You are considered essential employees and may be fully staffed. You must comply with all other aspects of the Healthy at Work Minimum Requirements – see my last post for details.
  1. Rent Numbers. The rent numbers for the first week of May looked good. They were better than the first week of April. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council’s Rent Tracker, 80.2% of tenants paid rent from May 1-6. That’s higher than the 78% that paid rent during the first week of April 2020. It’s just below the 81.7% that paid during the first week of May 2019.

So, we’ll see how the rest of the month goes, but the first week was very encouraging for both landlords and tenants.

  1. Court Openings. I do expect the Courts to actually open on June 1. I’m not sure what that will look like, but I expect we’ll have to wear masks, that they’ll only allow 33% occupancy, and that others will have to wait in the parking lot for a message to come inside. That’s about all I know right now, but it’s good news that they do plan to open.

I have gotten word that some counties do not plan to have any eviction hearings until July 1. I should know more about that as time goes on, but that's what I'm hearing as of today.

  1. Landlord Survey. For those on my e-mail list, you were asked to participate in a survey for landlords that was put together by the Lexington Fair Housing Council. They are still collecting data, so please go complete the survey if you haven’t already. You can access it here. It will be used to make policy suggestions to state and local officials, so make sure that your voice is heard.

You can view the current survey results at this link.

  1. LIHEAP Utility Assistance. The Community Action Council has extended funding for utility payments for low-income tenants in Fayette, Bourbon, Harrison, and Nicholas County. If you have tenants who need help, have them call 859-300-6960 or visit this link and follow the detailed instructions.
  1. Final Training Webinar – May 19. I’m going to cover how to deal with domestic violence issues under Kentucky’s new domestic violence law, fair housing law, and the Violence Against Women Act. It’s a great value and space is limited, so get signed up. You can do so here or here. You can also purchase recorded versions of the previous webinars on Reasonable Accommodations or Assistance Animals.

That’s it for today. My update next week will be on the CARES Act and what you need to be doing right now to make sure you’re able to file evictions as soon as the courts open up. Until then, if you need me, send an e-mail to smarshall@tripleslaw.com or call me on my cell.

Have a fantastic week.

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