It's Long Past Time for a Statewide Landlord-Tenant Law

The Supreme Court of Kentucky just handed down an opinion in a case, Shinkle v. Turner, that likely speaks to tenants across the Commonwealth. The procedural history of this case reads as cynical as it does familiar. A Boone County landlord (Mr. Turner) filed an eviction against his tenant (Mr. Shinkle) eight (8!) days after sending him a notice of lease termination. Landlord-tenant law in the Commonwealth is not uniform, but the relevant law in Boone County required 30 days written notice of termination of a lease before a landlord could file an eviction. Mr. Shinkle fought the eviction, through his attorney, Peter Nienaber with Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, and filed a motion to dismiss. However, instead of dismissing the action, the court merely continued the case for the requisite 30 days. 

The trial court's action doesn't fit with either the letter or the spirit of the law. Tenants have a right to due process, and many if not most do not have the time or money to fight evictions. Moreover, Section 8 and other rent-assistance programs will deny future payments to evicted tenants. Short circuiting the process like the trial court did in this case puts tenants in danger of losing their homes with little time to find a new one. Tenants in government assistance programs may not keep their eligibility for the program, let alone find new housing on short notice (8 days!).

The Supreme Court of Kentucky did the right thing and put this abusive practice in its place. In doing so, the Court highlighted the need for an updated statutory scheme to prevent judges and landlords from trampling tenant rights in the name of expediency:

It's long past time that the Kentucky legislature passed a uniform statutory scheme for landlord tenant law in the Commonwealth. Fortunately, a uniform scheme already exists and has been adopted in several jurisdictions across the Commonwealth: the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act ("URLTA"). The URLTA was created with the rights of both landlords and tenants in mind, and strikes a balance between the parties to ensure expeditious transfer of possession of the leased property while providing tenants a nontrivial amount of time to find alternative housing. Unfortunately, it is an opt-in scheme in Kentucky, so its coverage is spotty, leading landlords and judges and tenants to scramble to understand the parties' rights--even decades later.

We here at Ben Carter Law, PLLC, support the efforts of the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky and the other members of the Healthy Homes Coalition to have the URLTA passed as state law. On the linked website, there is a petition to sign to join in their efforts. If this matters to you as well--and I believe it should matter to all Kentuckians--please take the time to sign their petition.

Josh GoodnewtComment