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Eviction Procedure in Kentucky
In Kentucky when a tenant hasn't left the property after you've given them notice to leave for breaching the lease (typically for non-payment), the legal term for that is forcible detainer, and to legally get them tossed out you must file a forcible detainer complaint; most other states use different terms on their paperwork, but an eviction is an eviction by whatever name. There are several key points which you must observe in order to successfully evict a tenant in Kentucky.

1) You must post notice of their breach - and you can't just put it in the mail or tell them orally. While certified and registered mail can work, the tenant can simply refuse to sign for certified mail, and registered mail has potential pitfalls as well, so the method that is nearly universally used by property owners and accepted by the courts in Kentucky is to post the notice to the door. Yes, you literally tape a notice to the door. I know, that sounds odd, as the wind might blow it off, or kids take it off, or any number of things theoretically could happen and the tenant claim they never saw it (which many of them do, whether true or not). However, forcible detainer is technically a suit in rem (latin for "against the thing") rather than a suit in personam ("against the person"). The reason is the issue in a forcible detainer suit is possession of the property (it's not a money suit; in Kentucky you have to file a separate action to get the money the tenant owes you), so that makes it in rem - against the property so you can regain possession. As an added protection, we take a picture of the notice on the door and have it with us in court.

2) You must have the proper length of time on the notice. Kentucky law allows a forcible detainer notice to be as short as seven days (and on non-monetary breaches in areas which have adopted the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act, 14 days), but only if this is in writing in your lease. If your written lease does not state a notice period, then the general default in Kentucky is 30 days. Too many times I've seen a poor landlord who is already out a month or two's rent have to be told by a judge that their notice period was too short and they have to wait another 30 days. There are other rules which would come into effect if your payment period isn't monthly, and your lease doesn't state a notice period. The default notice period goes to the payment period if it is shorter than 30 days - in other words if rent is paid bi-weekly, then the default notice period is more than likely also two weeks. If you have an oral lease, you are in a world of trouble to start with, but the default notice period is going to be the payment period.

3) Your notice must contain all the required elements. It should state the date, the tenant's name(s), the amount past due, a demand it be paid ("pay or quit" is often the phrase used), or a description of whatever the breach is, and notice of (however many days is appropriate) to pay/cure the breach or face eviction. Be careful accepting partial payments after the notice has been posted. It could be argued that accepting a partial payment creates a need for a new notice period. This will be addressed by a non-waiver clause in the lease. If you do not have a non-waiver clause, or it is not specific enough, a tenant may successfully argue that by accepting a partial payment that cured the breach you had given notice of and you have to give notice again.

4) After the notice period is up, if the tenant has not paid or vacated, then you must file a forcible detainer complaint to regain possession. You cannot physically remove them yourself, lock them out, cut off the utilities, etc. IMPORTANT: if your property is in an LLC, corporation or other arm's-length entity, likely only an attorney can file the complaint. The reason is that your LLC is a separate "person" legally, and you can't practice law for this other "person". You can generally serve as a "personal representative" at the forcible hearing and not have to pay an attorney for that, but you can't file the complaint. The forcible detainer complaint is normally filed with the district court clerk in the county where the property is. There will be court costs, and there will be a fee to serve (the sheriff or constable will post the court notice to the door). The serving costs will vary by locale, but typically the cost of the two combined is somewhat over $100. Upon a guilty finding in the complaint, the tenant is typically liable for those costs (if you sue them for money they owe, you can include these court costs). Be aware of filing and court dates; in our county, for example, forcible detainers are heard on Wednesdays, but the complaint must be filed by noon the previous Thursday, or it will have to be carried over to the following Wednesday (almost two weeks off). The district clerk will have this information. Kentucky has a standard forcible detainer complaint form online at: http://courts.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/9412FABB-0AA3-4B87-B1A8-6F5FEDE46BA0/0/216.pdf

Jefferson County (Louisville) has to use a different form which can be found at https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fcourts.ky.gov%2Fresources%2Flegalforms%2FLegalForms%2F0561.pdf

For the full story behind Jefferson county's different form, go to http://www.kylandlords.com/why-louisville-has-a-different-forcible-detainer-form/

5) Show up for court with the written lease in hand. If you have a statement showing the payment history, that's good too. A judge will handle most forcible cases quickly, and while the judge will give the tenants a brief time to give their side, there are few things that a tenant can bring up which will stop a guilty finding on the complaint. Lack of notice, or of proper notice, is the primary defense and that is primarily a question of whether you have stated a notice period shorter than the default 30 days in your lease, and did you post notice on the door. Sometimes it becomes apparent that the agreement is actually a contract for deed (land contract), and that will defeat a forcible detainer because that involves title to the property and requires foreclosure first rather than eviction (I've seen this happen; it is devastating, since eviction can take a year. I personally would never sell a property under a contract for deed). The tenant can claim that they have paid you, but they'll need some proof of payment for that to stick. About half the time the tenant won't even show up and you'll get the judgment by default. When the tenant does show up, often they will agree they owe money and then start in on what difficult circumstances have cause them to get behind. The judge will usually be sympathetic, but you'll still get the judgment. Then you'll get some who claim as a defense that the landlord wouldn't fix this or that. This will not work, as there are other legal processes they should have used to make this claim, and a rent strike is not appropriate.

6) When the judge finds the tenant guilty of forcible detainer, they will be given seven days to vacate (the day of the court hearing is not one of the seven days - that count begins on the next day). This will be the same in every case, no matter how much the tenant pleads with the judge, or how dire they claim their circumstances are, unless for some reason you are willing to go into an agreed order allowing more time.

7) After the seven days are up, if the tenant still has not vacated, you can get a warrant for possession. You take the paperwork showing you have a forcible detainer judgment back to the district clerk, pay the fee (yes, another fee) and they will issue a warrant for possession. You then take that to the sheriff, and pay the fee (yes, another fee), and the sheriff will dispatch a deputy to oversee the eviction. The sheriff's deputy is there to enforce the court's order, to make sure that the tenant(s) are removed from the property, and will stay to ensure the peace while you have the locks changed, property removed, etc. There are laws dealing with a tenant's property that you want to get familiar with. You might be able to put a clause in your lease which basically says the property is abandoned when there is an eviction. Usually, the tenant's stuff is just put on the street, and that's the end of it (if they won't haul it off themselves). Be aware, though, that there are procedures governing property disposal which could affect you. Kentucky has a standard warrant for possession form online at: http://courts.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/8D765DC7-5599-4BA9-93C8-665DD0E66094/0/220.pdf

In our experience, nearly all (95% or more) of the tenants vacate near the end of the seven days after the court order and it will be very rare you have to physically toss them with a warrant for possession.

When you look at the entire process, a need not to delay becomes obvious. Don't wait until the tenant is already a month past when the rent was due to give notice, as this process will take the better part of another month. You have to give at least seven days' notice, then it will be another 7-13 days after you file the complaint before the court hearing, and then the tenant gets another seven days before you can toss them. That's a minimum of 21 days. Our policy is to post seven-day notice when the rent is six days past due. If the tenant pays within the 7 days, not big deal. After that they are almost a half-month behind and even though the court costs sting, overall you should do better simply filing the forcible without waiting any further. At that point a few tenants will still be able to recover and pay the court costs, but most know the system and that the clock really doesn't start running until you file so they will take advantage of as much time as you will give them.

The first time or two you go through this process, seeking legal counsel is highly advisable, especially if you are nervous. After you've done it a few times, though, it should become routine. If you think you may have your first forcible coming up soon, go sit in a few minutes of court to watch other forcibles. It is tremendous preparation, and should help a lot with the nerves when you do have to take this step.