This might be an unscheduled post but it becomes very important and necessary for me to take up, address and shed more light on this topical issues many occupiers even as I write are faced with and are struggling with how to protect and respond to threats of eviction notice from a court order enforcement officer as a result of a judgment delivered by a court.
It baffles me many times when court order enforcement officers such as a bailiff, sheriff or marshal attacks and fight or engages in a free for all fight with an occupier, whom the court has given an order in respect of an eviction case to vacate a property due to either non payment of rent or a holdover.
If you have witnessed any forceful eviction execution process by these officers before particularly in Nigeria, you will understand how serious and important this court order enforcement officers and the homeowner-occupier issue is because often times it ends in a free for all fracas and chaos.
I have witnessed and experienced this many times but each time I reflect on this, one question keeps popping up and that is must court order enforcement officers attack or fight the occupier in discharging their duty or could there be a better way for occupiers to avoid getting to this stage of eviction to prevent this imbroglio?
I wondered why officers, who are highly and supposedly trained to execute eviction order in order to take possession of a property or an apartment in an orderly manner deride occupiers as animals, taking laws into their own hands and going about the possession process in an unthinkable and unspeakable manner that transgress beyond the bounds of decency as if they are untrammelled by the law they claim to defend and uphold.
It’s disturbing and it worries me a lot to see a high level of ignorance in display by those who claim to sleep and breathe the law on the pretext of executing a court order or Judgment. I deprecate this execrable and very puny way of handling court eviction order for taking possession of a property from an occupier.
I am not trying to upbraid the judgment enforcement officers for wrongly or poorly executing ejection process but to let them understand and remember always that the law of the country and the ethics of their profession take precedence over any self or personal view or perspectives on how disputes should or ought to be resolved.
This post is pertinent to addressing this issue and it is designed to offer needed impetus for a rethink and change that could possibly spark up new ideas, ways and approach of executing eviction process and not only to help in conducting ejection process in a way that may not likely dehumanize the occupier involve but also delineates the expectations, roles and obligations of the occupier and of course the occupier’s support in ensuring that no one infringes on the right of the other.
To begin with, let me first of all clear the air on whether the homeowner, the homeowner’s representative, any family members or relations have the right to execute actual eviction or ejection process even with a court order to that effect, the answer is capital No.
Occupiers must know and understand that the court order enforcement officers as mentioned earlier, the bailiff, sheriff and the marshal are the only constituted authority to carry out court eviction order in accordance to the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which presumably do not allow them to beat up or fight anyone in executing the judgment of the court for taking possession of properties.
These people have constituted power and are charged with the responsibility of carrying out ejection exercise to simply put it if you have an eviction case in court which may be due to holdover or non payment of rent and judgment is passed in favour of the homeowner, you must be ready and prepared for any of these men to carry out the actual possession of the property.
At this point, I feel oblige to guide and walk you arm in arm through how this whole execution of eviction process normally plays out and handled to ensure a peaceful, smooth and successful take over process by the court order enforcement officers.
I will as a matter of interest take my time as much as possible to explicitly examine and explain the roles and responsibility of all parties involved in an eviction case proceedings and the eventual or possible court order for the eviction execution process in order to take possession.
Apparently, for any eviction to take place there must have been an acknowledgement of a notice received by the occupier to that effect which most times are delivered by mail, hand or slide under the occupier’s door.
This eviction notice often time are sent as a wake up call to the occupier but many ignorantly see this notice as hell about to let loose and instead of ruminating and carefully decide on how to resolve this issue but they are busy plotting on how to out smart and frustrate the homeowner either by creating more problems for the homeowner or making life difficult for fellow occupiers in the same building by not cooperating, supporting and responsive to activities in the building.
However, the gospel truth is that eviction notice is a wake up call as previously mentioned that gives occupier about four or six business days to respond to depending on how the eviction notice was delivered to the occupier by the court order enforcement officer in charge of the eviction execution process.
The great news is that non of these enforcement officers can execute the actual eviction process for possession until they are sure that the occupier has been properly and adequately served with the notice of possible eviction in accordance with the law and of course the four to six business days must have elapsed for any court order eviction execution can take place.
Hence, If anyone receive any eviction notice by any of these methods highlighted above, I suggest you take advantage of the details provided on the eviction notice, which most times include the court judgment enforcement officer’s name and address, phone number and of course the date the eviction notice was served on you.
This information will enable you make inquiries and ask questions about the eviction notice and on anything you are in doubt of, if you find it necessary. It will also portray you as a reasonable and responsible person who is sensible and wise.
It is also worthy of note that any hand delivered eviction notice by the court order enforcing officer, you have the right to demand for identification especially if the person fails to make any formal introduction before serving you the eviction notice.
Let me pontificate here that an eviction notice does not necessarily or instinctively mean the occupier must leave the property or the premises on the spot, it takes quite some time, series of events and activities that must be satisfied before the actual eviction can take place.
Hence, If you carefully study the eviction notice and you come up with or find something that you think is not right in the claims on the eviction notice or you believe that some or all what the homeowner professed are completely preposterous and could be defended then you can take steps to stop the eviction by going to the court where the judgment was given to file an order to show cause, OSC asking the judge to reopen the case.
Honestly many occupiers’s lack of interest in pursuing and exploring the opportunity to seek redress in court in order to stop the eviction perturbs me and this to me is disturbing and worrisome. I can attribute this to guilt, ignorance on the part of the occupiers or lack of knowledge and understanding of their rights as occupiers.
In order to successfully stop an execution of an eviction process the occupier must first of all list and write down all tenable reasons why he or she thinks the eviction should be stopped which will be used in court as defense in the eviction case. If the defense are genuine, good enough, tenable and properly articulated to convince the judge to sign the OSC, then the occupier might be fortunate to have another day in court for hearing of the case.
Let’s assume that the filed order to show cause is signed by the adjudicating judge then the onus is on the occupier to properly serve the OSC on the homeowner and the court order enforcement officer in order to stop the execution of the actual eviction.
At this stage of the eviction process the occupier must be conscious of what he or she does or says because whatever they do now is imperative to stopping the eviction process successfully especially when luck smiled on them to get the OSC signed by the judge based on the premise and promise to make amendment in order to right the wrongs and probably to improve their relationship with the homeowner.
To further expatiate on this, the full support and cooperation of the occupier is required at this stage particularly if he or she manages to extricate himself or herself from the first eviction notice served by the enforcement officer which paved way for another hearing of the case in court to discuss how best to resolve the case or preferably ask for more time to either pay up owed rent or cure the violation brought against him or her depending on the nature of the case.
Before we progress with this discussion, I must let you understand that the initial eviction notice served on the occupier by the enforcement officer is effective for thirty days from the day it was served and the judge’s decision or the outcome of the new hearing will help determine if there is a need for the occupier to be reserved a new notice or the previous eviction notice should be executed by the officer in charge.
It might also interest you to know that the only reason that may necessitate the need to reserve the occupier notice to execute an eviction is when it has been more than thirty days since the last notice was served.
For this reason, it heavily depends on the outcome of the hearing so if the adjudicating judge says the eviction notice should be reserved on the occupier, then the entire process is refreshed and reset and this action gives and presents the occupier with another four to six business day to respond before the actual eviction can be executed.
Many occupiers in this part of the world particularly in Nigeria, when they get to this stage of the eviction process what usually plays out is that they throw all this agreed upon settlement procedures out of the window and turn into an iconoclast refusing and denying the court order enforcing officer entry into the property or apartment in order to carry out their duty. This action many times leads to chaos, fracas, disorderliness, attack and eventually a fight.
Please allow me to quickly chip this in, If after the second eviction notice is served and the occupier is still not able to meet with the demands of the court before the agreed upon deadline for the eviction to be executed, he or she has the right to go back to the court to ask for more time by filing an order to show cause, OSC.
However, If the time frame given elapsed and the occupier did not make any serious attempt to reopen the case then the enforcement officer is left with no other option other than to execute the actual eviction exercise and if the occupier refuses entry to the apartment,the officer has a constituted power to use force to gain entry into the apartment to perform the eviction and take possession of the property or apartment.
Although this can only be achieved provided the court order enforcement officer has a final judgment from the court given to him by the property owner to enable him carry out the actual eviction of the occupier and the eventual take over of the property.
My concerns are, I find it difficult to understand why many don’t take execution of eviction notice by an enforcement officer seriously and they wait endlessly without taking any meaningful action till it degenerates to forceful ejection or execution process and this accounts for why many occupiers suffer in silence for their losses in this process particularly those who are ill, suffering from some chronic diseases and are on medication.
As a concerned citizen and an advisor, I strongly advice that anyone who receives an eviction notice from any of these enforcement officers, who finds it difficult and could not possibly cope or meet up with the given and agreed upon deadline of the court to cure the violation or pay up owed rent should first of all collect and move out all important items he or she might be needing soon or regularly such as legal papers, medications, certificates and any other valuables that can easily be moved before any of these men show up in your apartment.
This will help you protect and safe guard some or most of your important documents and valuables you may be needing urgently and frequently because if they are locked permanently in the apartment by the enforcement officers or thrown outside the apartment, the possibility of getting all your property intact is dim and the process of having the opportunity of getting access to them will take a while or you might as well lose them all forever.
Although you may still have another opportunity to have access to your properties but you wont want to bet on this, the process takes a while and it is very burdensome because you would need to complete and file an order to show cause OSC in court again and if you are lucky the judge may grant you the opportunity to get your belongings.
Having said that, I believe that this uncivilized approach of executing eviction order and taking possession should be checked and court order enforcement officers who arrogate to themselves the power or right to deride occupiers as worthless human beings and whose actions lead to fracas in the neighbourhood must be punished by the law.
I also appeal to government to promulgate laws that will firmly handle issues of eviction execution process in order to protect the interest of all parties involve in the eviction process, guide, limit and restrict the excesses of all parties to the case for a smooth and peaceful take over of possession to take place.
We must brace up our judicial system because at the moment it is ineffective and inefficient enough considering the time taken or used in passing judgment on an eviction case and as a result many homeowners are left in the lurch. The endless adjournment of eviction cases which most times take two years or a year if you are lucky before judgment is given and this is not helping much at all.
Before I call it a day on this post, let quickly share this real life eviction case with you from one of our new clients who pursued an eviction case for close to two years if not more than two years. The client said he regretted taking the case to court in the first place because the judge in charge of the eviction case kept on adjourning the case and by the time the final judgment was given he has expended more than what the occupier pays annually as well as lost additional two years in the process pursuing the case.
I would love to state here that the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of our court system is what many low life and ungrateful souls often capitalize on and this best explicates why most of them deliberately frustrate and create problems for their homeowners when thand sometimes leave with the owners rent unpaid thereby corroding the property asset investment.
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