The Supreme Court issued an opinion on Kentucky’s eviction process yesterday. I haven’t blogged about landlord-tenant law in the past, but the case is remarkable for three reasons.
First, the facts. In Shinkle v. Turner, the landlord issued a thirty-day notice to the tenant to vacate pursuant to KRS 383.195. But the landlord, in his haste to reclaim the property, filed an eviction case before the end of that thirty-day period. The Boone District Court, Circuit Court, and the Court of Appeals all ruled that the premature eviction filing did not matter because the actual eviction hearing occurred after the thirty-day period expired. But the Supreme Court reversed, holding that the filing was improper and vacated the eviction judgment.
Why is this case remarkable? First, there is little appellate law interpreting Kentucky’s eviction statutes, which are based on an arcane process that predates Kentucky’s 1891 constitution. The Court acknowledged this fact, stating: “we cannot fail to note that the current statutory scheme for forcible entry and detainer as described above originated many, many decades ago and has arguably become ill-suited and impractical for application to modern property practices. The statutory procedure for the adjudication of forcible entry and detainer issues is ill-suited to the modern court system.” The Supreme Court acknowledged what tenant’s rights lawyers already know, that Kentucky’s eviction procedures are due for an overhaul.
Second, the case corrects a process that happens everyday. Premature eviction filings in Kentucky are routine. Most tenants, given the dire and sad financial situations that lead to eviction filings, do not have the wherewithal to fight back. Kudos to Ms. Shinkle for standing her ground.
And third, kudos to Peter Nienaber and the Legal Aid of the Bluegrass for taking the case to the Supreme Court, even after Ms. Shinkle was legally required to move. The Supreme Court said that “the factual situation presented by this case is a recurrent event in modern life that very often arises under circumstances in which appellate review is highly unlikely.” But for Legal Aid’s efforts and tenacity, this problem would have never been addressed.