CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) – One week ago, News 3 told you about Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher’s decision to once again serve eviction warrants after months of pandemic-related restrictions expired.
One week later, the department says there are 340 dispossessory warrants (court summons) “in process.” Deputies can serve 7-15 dispossessory warrants each day, in addition to more than 50 other unrelated summons.
“It’s nothing personal or anything like that, it’s just like a business,” said Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher who instructed his officers to enforce warrants starting Monday.
“Officers go out there fully protected with their masks, with their gloves. They also have a body camera on,” he said.
As always, if you are served a signed dispossessory warrant, you have seven days to respond. Sheriff Wilcher says deputies can deliver it personally, by mail or tape it to your door.
If you do not respond, a judge will enter a default judgment and sign a writ of possession. A tenant does not have the right to appeal a default judgment, according to Georgia Legal Servies Eviction Prevention Program Attorney Shaina Thompson.
If you do answer, prepare for your day in court. Thompson says, recently, most eviction proceedings are prompted by nonpayments.
The sheriff and Thompson pointed to United Way as a resource that can assist with rent payments. It is also important to do your research to determine how you can defend yourself in court.
If you have the funds, you can use a “tender defense.”
“What that is is just paying everything that’s owed plus court costs and then the case would be dismissed,” said Thompson. “You can only use that tender defense once in a 12 month period.”
If you qualify, Georgia Legal Services can provide free legal aid
If you are served a writ of possession, Sheriff Wilcher says it will inform you of a date when deputies will escort your landlord as s/he puts your possessions in the nearest public right of way. At that point, you have 24 hours to collect your belongings.