More Rights for Mississippi Tenants
SB 2461. Effective 4/21/22
Senate Bill 2461 was enacted in response to a federal court order in Conner v. Alltin, LLC, No. 3:20-CV-057-MPM-RP (N.D. Miss. November 30, 2021) that found portions of Mississippi's landlord-tenant law unconstitutional. The bill codifies new sections of law and amends a number of provisions throughout Chapters 7 and 8 of Title 89, Mississippi Code of 1972.
Beyond responding to the federal order, the bill also streamlines certain procedures related to evictions and makes a number of technical amendments. One of these technical changes, discussed in more detail below, is to have the eviction of a residential tenant to proceed under Chapter 8. Historically, an eviction of a residential tenant in Mississippi has proceeded under Chapter 7 of Title 89. SB 2461, though, amends Chapter 8 of Title 89 to authorize evictions under its provisions.
I. Constitutional Reforms
In response to the federal court order, the bill enacts a number of reforms to both Chapters 7 and 8 of Title 89. First, it establishes a time frame for the removal of tenants after either the entry of a possession judgment or the execution of a warrant of removal. Second, the bill establishes a procedure that protects the tenant's rights to his or her personal property throughout the eviction process. Third, the bill requires proper notice of these procedures to be given to the tenant.
A. Eviction Time Frame Under this bill, tenants now have seven days from the date of the judgment of possession to move out of the premises. This time period can be enlarged or decreased upon a specific finding of a judge of compelling circumstances. During this time period, tenants shall have full access to the premises. If the tenant fails to vacate the premises, the landlord may seek a warrant of removal. After the warrant of removal is executed, the tenant has a period of 72 hours of reasonable access to the premises, arranged by the landlord, to remove the tenant's personal property.
B. Tenant's Personal Property Rights The bill clarifies that legal possession of a tenant's personal property does not transfer to a landlord upon entry of a possession judgment in favor of the landlord or upon execution of the warrant of removal. In addition to the time frame discussed above, the bill provides that the landlord, at the end of the 72-hour-reasonable-access period, may only dispose of a tenant's personal property by moving it to an area designated for garbage or some other location agreed to by the tenant and landlord. In other words, the personal property of the tenant may not be sold by the landlord and may only be disposed of after the statutory time frame is complied with.
C. Notice to Tenant The bill requires specific statutory notice to the tenant to fully describe the eviction process and provide notice to the tenant of his or her rights.
II. Streamlining Amendments
Beyond the reforms in response to the federal court order, the bill also seeks to streamline procedures in Chapters 7 and 8 of Title 89, providing clarity for both parties in eviction actions.
A. Eviction Procedures Clarified
The bill clarifies the procedures of residential and nonresidential landlords filing eviction actions.
1. Residential Evictions A residential landlord can evict a tenant for breach of the rental agreement or violation of the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act pursuant to Section 89-8-13. Also, the residential landlord can evict a tenant for failing to vacate after the expiration of the rental agreement pursuant to Sections 89-8-17 and 89-8-19. Also, the bill sets out that the landlord shall file a sworn affidavit or complaint and a copy of the written notice that was delivered to the tenant.
2. Nonresidential Evictions A nonresidential landlord must file a sworn affidavit or complaint, based on the terms of the rental agreement. The complaint or affidavit must:
• State the facts requiring the removal of the tenant; • Identify the address of the premises, the amount of rent and fees owed;
• Declare that necessary notice has been given to terminate the tenancy; and
• Identify any specific items of tenant property located at the premises as to which the landlord asserts a valid lien and has commenced, or is commencing, separate proceedings concerning.
B. Eviction Judgments
The bill requires justice court judges to enter eviction judgments under certain circumstances. In eviction actions where a tenant does not appear, if the landlord complies with notice to the tenant, summons is proper, and the landlord is otherwise entitled to judgment, the court shall grant a default judgment to the landlord. In eviction actions where a tenant does appear, if the landlord complies with notice, the tenant does not present a valid defense, and the landlord is otherwise entitled to judgment, the court shall grant judgment to the landlord. Also, the bill requires judgments granted by the court to be signed and executed on the same business day that the judgment is granted.
III. Technical Amendments One of the more significant technical amendments made by SB 2461 is that the Mississippi Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, which is Chapter 8 of Title 89, is now comprehensive for the purposes of seeking an eviction. The Residential Landlord and Tenant Act now includes its own procedure to govern the eviction of a residential tenant. It also provides for continuances at a hearing and increased damages against a holdover tenant. These provisions mirror current law but are simply not duplicated in the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. SB 2461 also makes several other technical amendments to landlord-tenant law, including the following:
• It clarifies that the landlord has a duty of good faith to accept payment of rent before the court-ordered move-out date if the amount owed to the landlord is tendered in full. The landlord's duty of good faith to accept tender of full payment, though, does not extend beyond the court-ordered move-out date.
• It provides that appeals from final judgments under the chapter shall be pursuant to the applicable Mississippi Rules of Court.
• It provides that any rules and regulations adopted by a residential landlord must be written.
• It also amends Section 89-8-19 to provide that notice to terminate a tenancy shall not be required when the landlord or tenant has committed a substantial violation of the rental agreement or the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act that materially affects health or safety. The law had previously required the violation to affect health and safety.
• It also removes references to municipal court judges. Municipal courts do not handle eviction actions. The references to municipal courts were replaced with circuit court to provide a forum for eviction actions where the county does not have a county court, but the amount in controversy exceeds $3,500