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April 13, 2020

Unlawful Detainers

Case: Belgravia Square, LLC v. Melvin White, et al.

Facts: Borrower refused to vacate his property after it was sold to Company at a foreclosure auction, so Company filed an unlawful detainer action in general sessions court. Company prevailed, and Borrower appealed to circuit court while retaining possession of the property. Company moved for a writ of possession of the property, asserting that Borrower failed to post a statutory bond equal to one year’s rent per 29-18-130(b)(2). The trial court held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the appeal because Borrower failed to post the bond

Intermediate Decision: The intermediate court ruled in favor of Borrower and reversed: “the Tennessee Supreme Court has explained that ‘ the bond requirement of section 29-18-130(b)(2) is not jurisdictional and applies only to those tenants in an unlawful detainer action who wish to stay the writ of possession after a general sessions court’s judgment in favor of the landlord and retain possession of the property during the appeal.” Johnson v. Hopkins, 432 S.W.3d 840, 848 (Tenn. 2013). The statute ‘contemplates that a tenant may appeal without posting bond,’ which ‘indicates that the bond is not jurisdictional but rather is non-jurisdictional and designed to stay the landlord’s writ of possession.’ Id. at 849.”

Review Granted: April 1, 2020.

Prediction: Ben thinks the Supreme Court will reverse and hold that the bond is jurisdictional when, as here, the tenant has not abandoned the property. Otherwise, the statute would be superfluous as a tenant would never need to pay the bond. David agrees the Court will reverse and simply find the bond requirement is a mandatory procedural precondition which was not complied with; a finding of “lack of jurisdiction” being unnecessary.