Gorman v. Ratliff
Plaintiffs were tenants of defendant. Plaintiffs became delinquent in their rent, so defendant asked them to vacate the premises. Before plaintiffs did so, defendant entered the house while plaintiffs were gone and removed all of their personal property, storing it elsewhere. Plaintiffs sued for a wrongful and constructive eviction and a wrongful conversion of property.
Plaintiffs violated the terms of the lease. Provisions in the lease permitted defendant to enter the property and store all personal property left at the property if rent was not paid. If not paid within 30 days of storing the property, the lease permitted defendant to sell all items as well to satisfy the debt.
Defendant's actions constitute a forcible enter and detainer. The lease, insofar as it supports defendant's actions, is illegal, unconscionable, and against public policy.
Trial court ruled that defendant had a right to peaceable repossession of the premises and a lien on the personal property found therein. They awarded defendant $528 on his counterclaim for unpaid rent and moving, storing, and cleaning expenses.
Did defendant's actions constitute a forcible entry and detainer?
The Arkansas legislature revised the statutes describing the cause of action for forcible entry and detainer to give additional protection to parties in possession of property before it could be taken from them and to expedite the removal of parties who are unlawfully in possession of property. Part of this law prohibited forbade "carrying away the goods of the party in possession." Another said entry by the landlord could only be given by legal process. This conforms with the policy behind such statues. Such statutory rights cannot be contracted away, because they cannot be isolated and other rights in the statute, such as not being killed or maimed by one's landlord, are absolutely prohibited.
The provisions of the lease authorizing defendant's self-help remedy are invalid. Defendant's actions constituted a forcible entry and detainer.