July 23, 2013 U.S. Marshal Ricky Bell attended a meeting at the Apartment and Office Building Association (AOBA) office last month. He spoke candidly about the state of evictions in the District of Columbia and offered some insights and suggestions as to how to landlords can increase the likelihood that an eviction will occur after a writ has issued.
Backlog and Rain Policy Change
First, U.S. Marshal Bell spoke about the backlog. Currently, the Marshals are scheduling 24 evictions a day and they have a backlog of about 800 writs. This means, of course, that the initial writ that issues on a tenant will not necessarily result in an eviction—as landlords, it is important to monitor the expiration date on each writ and to alert your attorneys as soon as a writ expires so that we can begin the process of obtaining an alias writ right away. U.S. Marshal Bell did note that although the temperature policy has not changed (no evictions if the weather forecast calls for temperatures below 32º over the next 24 hours from 8:00 on the date the eviction would occur), the rain policy has changed slightly to favor landlords. Currently, for evictions to be canceled, the weather forecast must calls for a greater than 50% chance of rain from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the date the eviction would occur. This rain policy means that the U.S. Marshals Service will schedule and conduct evictions even if there is a 50% chance of rain on the date the eviction would occur.
Next, U.S. Marshal Bell spoke about how to troubleshoot in advance to avoid problems on site after the Marshals arrive. He offered three specific tips—
- Take the Call. First, make sure someone at the property answers the phone between 9:00 and 10:30 or, if that’s not possible, that there is either an answering service or a working voicemail message box. The U.S. Marshals’ office will call between 9:00 and 10:30 to schedule evictions for the following day. They schedule 24 evictions per day. They call the first 24 properties in line and if all accept, then they stop. If no one answers, they leave a message and ask to be called back. If they do not receive a call back, they continue moving through their line until 24 evictions have been scheduled.
- Have a Point Person. Next, we recommend that each property have someone on-site who runs the eviction. This person needs to be familiar with several important details and needs to be prepared to answer questions that the Deputy U.S. Marshals on site might have. This person should check to make sure that the correct building number is on the tenant’s building and the correct apartment number is on the tenant’s door. The eviction will not go forward if there is any doubt about either of these details. These numbers have to match the numbers on the writ.
- Know the Trans-lux. If asked, this person needs to provide the Deputy U.S. Marshals on site with the Trans-Lux amount (the amount the tenant needs to pay to avoid eviction). This amount should be added up on the date on which the eviction is to occur. It includes rent and late fees for all months where late fees have been approved by the Court; rent for any additional months since Court approval; and $183 for the writ. It is not acceptable for the on-site landlord representative to tell the Deputy U.S. Marshals on site that he or she does not know the amount that the tenant needs to pay to stop the eviction. In fact, if the person in charge on-site does this, then the Deputy U.S. Marshals may stop the eviction.
Click here to view the U.S. Marshals’ D.C. Eviction page.
Offit Kurman’s Landlord Representation Group is available to answer any questions you might have about landlord-tenant law in the District of Columbia, and evictions in particular, as they relate to your property. If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, or any other Landlord Representation matter, please contact Billy Cannon at 240.507.1771 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.