Attorney: No rental evictions unless court ordered

Attorney: No rental evictions unless court ordered
Ramona Farquharson-Seymour

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Concerns over rental assistance amid the COVID-19 crisis persist, with many tenants already facing demands from landlords and others uncertain of how they will meet upcoming rental payments.

However, attorney Ramona Farquharson-Seymour told Eyewitness News eviction notices cannot be acted upon unless issued by the court.

Farquharson-Seymour said: “You can get an eviction notice but only the courts can issue a legal eviction, no one else. It’s in the Magistrate’s Act. You can give people notice as much as you like. You can not put a person out nor can the police do so without a proper notice from the courts.

“The court’s must give the eviction order and that will state the name of the person, the premises and the date and time they must be out. Then the police are able to assist the landlord or whomever is the owner.”

She continued: “The court will take the eviction order into consideration when they deal with the issue of time. The landlord is able to say I served this person with an eviction notice two months ago. The court then can, they do not have to but they may take that into consideration.

“Another issue the court will take into consideration is whether the tenant has been paying the landlord during that time. If the landlord was collecting rent right up to a few weeks before going to court then they will probably give the person a bit more time compared to someone who may not have been paying for a longer period..”

While the government has indicated that it is looking at ways to address the issue. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest admitted as recently as last week that the government is facing a huge challenge devising an effective rental assistance initiative as it would require the banks to “freeze” landlord loans.

Without some form of rental assistance, Farquharson-Seymour forecast the country could see a sharp rise in homelessness.

“This is going to be a mess,” she said.

“People are not in a position to go and find somewhere else to live because of what is happening with COVID-19 and also many people have lost their jobs. Where are people going to go?”

Farquharson-Seymour said: “We are going to perhaps be in a serious economic crisis. If let’s say we have a thousand people facing eviction we are going to have a serious  issue with homelessness. This is going to be a mess because a lot of landlords rely on those funds pay their mortgages and to meet their demands and unfortunately there may not be much to go around. It’s going to be ugly. This can create a lot of social problems, major problems.”