Judiciary considers new, swifter eviction law to be successful

Judicial officials are upbeat about the impact of a new law that cuts the time necessary for evictions from years to months.

The law, Ley 916, went into force last Sept. 5, and from then until February some 45 cases have reached the  Juzgados Civiles de Menor Cuantía that is designated by the legislation to handle the cases.

Among other changes, the hearing on an eviction is oral and the usual back and forth of paperwork is eliminated, those involved in the process said. And the process is simplified.

As expected, the bulk of the cases are those specified in the law: non-payment of rent, overstaying a lease and failing to pay condominium assessments.  Luis Guillermo Rivas Loáiciga, the president of the Sala Primera civil court, said that about 80 percent of the cases are like these.

Under the new law, once a complaint is files, a judge has five days to issue a resolution, which has the effect of embargoing a tenant’s possessions for possible use in repayment.

Once notified, the tenant has 15 days to contest the complaint. If the tenant does not respond, the judge signs what amounts to a default order for the eviction. If  the eviction is contested, the tenant has 15 days to show that payment had been made. But as the case progresses, the tenant also is obligated to post the appropriate rental amounts with the court. Failing to do so will result in immediate eviction, the judiciary said.

So there is no free ride as has been the case under previous laws.

Froylán Alvarado Zelada, a judge who handles these cases, said that a typical eviction should take about a month and a half and no more than four months, according to a summary prepared by the Poder Judicial. There are appeals possible, but they, too, are expedited.

In the past, tenants have been known to hang on without paying rent through various legal maneuvers for up to five years. The way the prior law favored tenants was an impediment to investments into apartment buildings and condos.

The same law also applies to commercial locations, such as storefronts.

Of the cases that have been filed, many have been dropped for one reason or another. Tenant and landlord might have come to an agreement.  About 20  cases are now in various stages of the legal process, the Poder Judicial said.

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