A Forcible Detainer Action is the legal term for the complaint a landlord files against a tenant. These vary from county to county, but they still follow the same general eviction process:
A landlord must follow this process in order to win their Forcible Detainer Action case to evict a tenant successfully. It takes time and effort to win a case because the court may have a jam-packed schedule.
A landlord is advised to make sure they are willing to spend much time going through an eviction process because it can get tedious.
Once a landlord wins the case, they may ask for a court order called a Writ of Possession to order a tenant to move out of the rental unit. A landlord cannot evict a tenant without one being issued to them.
This information provided in this article details a summary for landlords to refer to when evicting a tenant. Alternatively, a landlord can also ask for legal advice from an attorney for more information on the rules for eviction.
The best legal advice will come from an attorney who is well-versed in Kentucky legal law.
The first step all evictions must take is providing a notice called a Notice to Quit. There are only some states which do not require a Notice to Quit, and even then, it depends on the reason for eviction.
The notice must provide the reason for eviction and how long a tenant has to pay, comply, or leave before the process begins. A landlord cannot evict any tenants without this notice.
An eviction in Kentucky can get a little complicated because of the presence of The Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA). It is a set of uniformed laws that define a specific set of processes to be followed by a landlord during an eviction.
It acts as a sort of lease that is common to all landlords and tenants residing in Kentucky. Like a lease, it lists down the responsibilities of a landlord and of a tenant during the entire duration of the rental term.
However, URLTA only applies to counties that have at least 68,000 people in its population. It is best to check with your county to determine whether it falls under URLTA's jurisdiction.
1. Failing to pay rent/Non-payment of rent
The most common reason for eviction is failure to pay rent. Late rent payment in Kentucky is a day past its due.
For example, if rent is due on the 25th and hasn't been paid by the 26th, then that means rent is late, and the landlord can evict the tenant by handing in the correct eviction notice.
Before starting the eviction process, a landlord must give the tenant a written 7-Days Notice to Pay once rent is past due. This gives the tenant 7 days to pay rent or leave the rental unit.
This notice period applies if the rental property is within the jurisdiction of the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.
If a tenant wants to avoid getting evicted, they have to pay rent. Failure to pay rent in full means the tenant must vacate the rental unit.
If the tenant fails to leave after the notice period of 7 days and refuses to move out or pay rent, the landlord may continue to file an eviction for non-payment of rent.
2. Violation of the lease/rental agreement
A lease agreement can vary from tenant to tenant. It contains all information on the responsibilities of each party during the entire duration of the tenant's stay.
A tenant may face eviction for violating the terms of the lease. Both tenant and landlord must uphold the written lease/rental agreement at all times.
If a tenant violates any terms from the written lease agreement, the landlord must give the tenant a written notice called a 15-Day Notice to Comply. This notice informs the tenant that they have 15 days to either fix their lease violation or vacate the property.
Kentucky eviction laws state that this notice period applies if (a) the rental property is within the jurisdiction of the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and (b) the lease violation committed is curable.
However, if (a) the rental property is within the jurisdiction of the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act; and (b) the lease violation committed is incurable, the tenant receives a 14-Day Notice to Comply.
This notice informs the tenant that they have 14 days to vacate the property. If they remain on the property by the end of the 14 days, the landlord can continue filing for eviction.
An incurable violation is when the tenant commits the first curable violation a second time within a span of 6 months.
Lease violations in a Kentucky eviction include:
- Damage to the rental unit
- Conducting illegal activity
- Smoking in non-smoking areas
- Housing a pet in a pet-free rental unit, etc.
A landlord may begin the eviction lawsuit to evict a tenant who has been unable to fix their violation or vacate the property after their notice period.
3. Non-renewal of lease after the end of the rental period
A Kentucky eviction process does not allow a landlord to evict a tenant without good cause. However, if the tenant becomes a "holdover" tenant, the eviction process may begin after the notice period.
A holdover tenant is someone who overstays their lease term without applying for a renewal. This reason for eviction usually only applies if the landlord wants to end the tenant's lease.
The notice a tenant receives depends on their type of tenancy. A week-to-week tenant receives a different notice than a month-to-month tenant, etc. The forms are among a 7-Day Notice to Quit, a 30-Day Notice to Quit, and a 10-Day Notice to Quit.
A landlord may start filing for eviction for tenants who remain on the rental property after the end date indicated in their notice period.
Filing a Complaint
The next step to a state of Kentucky eviction process is filing a legal complaint—called a "Warrant" in the correct district court. A successful eviction relies on accurate filings, so the landlord must file it correctly.
Filing fees cost about $43, with an additional $40 for a forcible removal in Jefferson County.
1. Steps in filing
- Proceed to the justice court the rental property belongs to
- Fill out the forms to file the Forcible Detainer Action
- Pay the fees
It takes about 7 days-30 days from when the eviction notice was given to the tenant before a Forcible Detainer Action may be filed. The entire thing could take as long as 1 month.
Serving the Tenant
The next step in an eviction process is serving the Summons and Complaint to the tenant. The date and time of the court trial must be found in the Summons.
In most cases, the landlord cannot serve the documents by themselves, so Kentucky state allows either the sheriff or constable to serve the documents. They have to be served at least 3 days before the date of a court hearing.
1. How to serve documents to a tenant
The documents must be served through one of the following methods:
- Personal Service: The Summons and its supporting documents are served on the tenant in person
- Substituted Service: If the tenant is unavailable, a copy of the Summons may be left with a tenant's family member.
- Posting & Mailing: The Summons and Complaint are posted in a secure and visible position by the entrance to the tenant's rented property, and a copy is mailed to the tenant.
2. After serving the Summons and Complaint
According to Kentucky law, tenants do not need to file an answer with the court. They just have to appear at the hearing.
The Summons and Complaint must be served on the tenant at least 3 days before the court trial.
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgment and get a Warrant for Possession
To win and accomplish this step and get a Warrant for possession, the landlord must provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against their tenants. If the tenant fails to show up to the hearing on time, the judge may grant the landlord possession by default.
Once judgment is passed in favor of the landlord, the tenant may file an appeal within 7 days from the date the landlord wins the court trial. The opportunity to file an appeal may also depend on whether the property falls under the jurisdiction of the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.
Should a tenant file for an appeal, they have to move out of the rental unit while the court decides on their final judgment.
2. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and filed an answer
Along with the tenant, the landlord has to support their claim with evidence and show it to the judge on the date of the trial. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Copy of the deed and the lease/rental agreement
- Rent receipts
- Rent ledgers
- Bank statements
- Witness statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations committed by the tenant
Alternatively, either party may ask for the legal services of an attorney who is well-versed in information about Kentucky legal law to assist in the hearing.
There is no specific period of time before an eviction hearing is scheduled. It will depend on the availability of each respective justice court.
1. After the landlord wins the case and gets a Writ of Restitution
The court judge will provide a Writ of Restitution immediately after the landlord wins the Forcible Detainer Action. This court order informs the tenant that they have to get out of their housing on the property or else they will be forcibly removed.
However, Kentucky eviction laws state that it can only be executed after a seven-day period. The tenant has to use this seven-day period to vacate the property of their own volition.
2. Move out process from the rental unit
This final step in the eviction process is to move the tenant out of their housing. Kentucky laws dictate that the tenants have to move out within 7 days after the Writ of Restitution is issued.
Only the sheriff or the appropriate authorities are allowed to remove the tenant by force. Even if the landlord wins the case, they cannot engage in a self-help eviction.
The state of Kentucky does not specify what to do with a tenant's belongings. If any belongings are left behind, landlords are advised to contact the tenant and give them a reasonable timeframe to claim them. After the timeframe has passed, the tenant's property may be sold or disposed of.
The Writ of Restitution is issued immediately after the judge can provide a Warrant for Possession in favor of the landlord.
Tenants have to vacate the property within 7 days once the court issues the Writ of Restitution.
Kentucky Eviction Timeline
On average, it takes about 3 weeks to 6 weeks for one to complete an eviction process in Kentucky.
1. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the eviction request and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This gets VERY hard to search through, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other option that is easily searchable.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
2. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, including important dates and any violations from the tenant.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also show any fees your bank may have charged you, and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, a letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
3. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, you have a very good chance of winning the case.
- Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. It may be sufficient if you do not have every specific violation pointed out in the agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. As a good practice though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.
Can you kick someone out without an eviction notice in Kentucky?
No. A landlord could be sued for forceful eviction of a tenant if they skip the proper eviction processes.
It is against Kentucky law to not provide tenants with the appropriate written notice before proceeding with an eviction lawsuit. A landlord must give the tenant the correct forms when handing in an eviction notice along with the reason for eviction.
In the state of Kentucky, tenants can sue their landlords for three months' worth of rent and reasonable attorney fees. This is an added consequence of forcing the tenant to move out.
Which eviction methods are illegal in Kentucky?
Self-help eviction is illegal. Examples of such acts include (but are not limited to):
- Cutting off the tenant's electric, water, and/or heat supply
- Changing the locks to prevent the tenant from entering the property
- Vandalizing or destroying the tenant's property
Furthermore, retaliatory eviction is also considered illegal.
What are the penalties for a self-help eviction in Kentucky?
According to Kentucky Civil Code, you may be liable for Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees. The statute also grants the tenant the right to stay.
A tenant can sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.
What laws should I know of in Kentucky?
A landlord must be aware of any information regarding the COVID-19 Eviction Policies because the Kentucky Supreme Court has made some statewide changes on the eviction rules to help those who are struggling during the pandemic, such as back rent.
Landlords need to check out relevant information about laws on Security Deposits. One needs to learn how these deposits can protect the landlord when there is unpaid rent or repairs.
Landlords also need to read information about Landlord-Tenant laws in Kentucky, which is often called the Landlord-Tenant Act, so that they are aware of the rules and regulations in the state when it comes to an eviction.
The information provided in these laws will help a landlord win an eviction lawsuit the legal way.
- iProperty Management: Kentucky Eviction Process
- NOLO: Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in Kentucky
- iProperty Management: Kentucky Security Deposit Law
- Legal Templates: Kentucky Eviction Notice
- National Apartment Association: COVID-19 Information for Kentucky
- NOLO: Consequences of Illegal Evictions
- NOLO: The Eviction Process in Kentucky: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers