/Lawmakers working to fix unconstitutional eviction law

Lawmakers working to fix unconstitutional eviction law

The new bill, which allows tenants to be allowed a seven-day grace period following a judge’s order for their removal, was authored by Rep. Nick Bain (Republican from Corinth). This is in an attempt to amend the existing statute. Tenants who are being evicted for not paying rent can stay in their homes if they pay the rent and fees by the court-ordered date. This is something that was not possible under the existing law. Mississippi’s current law does not allow for a grace period. This means that tenants may be forced from their homes if they lose in court. However, a landlord can also immediately seize their belongings. Bain stated that if the bill is not passed, Mississippi will not have a Constitutional Eviction Statute. “So it attempts that, puts a Band Aid, and I think there will be, maybe next sessions, a broader bill which addresses landlord-tenant altogether.” Bain’s bill passed the House and awaits full Senate approval. U.S. District Judge Michael Mills declared the law unconstitutional in November. This was after Samantha Conner, a single, low-income landlord, used it to justify taking her belongings. READ MORE: “All of this belongs to me”: Mississippi landlords can legally seize all belongings during an eviction. Mills suspended his decision to allow lawmakers to review the law before it was repealed. Bain stated that “it’s something we have to do or nobody will be getting evicted.” Mississippi has one of the highest eviction rates. According to data from 2016, the Princeton University-based research organization the Eviction Lab, Jackson is home to seven to eight families who are forced from their homes each day. Jackson was the fifth-highest eviction rate of all large cities. The law was amended by the Legislature in 2019 to provide fewer protections for tenants facing eviction. This made the Mississippi Landlord-Tenant Act one of the most severe in the country. Judge Mills described the revisions as “unpredictable” and “absurd,” due to some landlords’ strict interpretations of the law. The law states that if the judge grants possession to the landlord of the premises and you don’t remove your personal belongings (including any manufactured home) from the premises by the specified date and time, the landlord can dispose of your personal items.” Landlord-Tenant statutes in many states across the country outline what landlords can do with renters’ left-behind property. This is a crucial legal guideline for abandoned property. Kevin Casteel was Conner’s apartment manager and used the law against Conner to stop Conner taking her belongings when she left her apartment the day before her removal. Bain stated that this is a common occurrence in many laws we pass. “Unfortunately sometimes innocent people or the entire state have to pay the cost.” Conner’s lawsuit against Conner, in which she asks for damages to cover all the things she has lost, including family photos, and keepsakes, is still pending. Conner acknowledged that Conner’s victory was partly due to the fact that her efforts led to changes in state law. Conner stated to Mississippi Today that she believes this will empower people and give others the courage to pursue justice. People matter. They can use the law to tell them that they cannot do this to them. Bain stated that the Legislature might consider a larger overhaul of Mississippi’s complicated, fragmented eviction statute next spring. It is intended to establish a uniform framework for how renter moves in Mississippi. This includes notice requirements, how many days landlords can file an eviction after they miss a rent due date, and when landlords can file a warrant of removal. Tenants, landlords, and judges have been confused about Mississippi’s law. This has led to varying outcomes for renters in the state. Bain stated that the statute is cumbersome and clunky. READ MORE: A federal judge declares Mississippi’s eviction law unconstitutional following a ‘Kafkaesque nightmare.