Session: August 16, 2016
from the Circuit Court for Sumner County No. 83CC12015CV699
Joe Thompson, Judge
appeal arises from an indigent tenant's petition for
writs of certiorari and supersedeas for a de novo review of
an unlawful detainer action originally filed in general
sessions court. The tenant sought to remain in possession of
the leased premises during the review without posting a
possessory bond. The circuit court initially issued the writs
and, in lieu of a bond, ordered the tenant to pay rent as it
became due. The landlord objected, arguing that a possessory
bond was mandatory under the applicable statute. The circuit
court then ordered the tenant to post a bond and, after the
tenant failed to comply, dismissed the previously issued
writs. On appeal, the tenant argues that the circuit court
erred in calculating the amount of the bond and in dismissing
the writ of certiorari with the writ of supersedeas. She also
contends that the landlord executed the writ of possession in
violation of the initial stay of Tennessee Rule of Civil
Procedure 62.01. We conclude that, although it erred in
including court costs as part of the possessory bond in light
of the tenant's indigence, the trial court properly
dismissed the writs of certiorari and supersedeas after the
tenant failed to file a possessory bond. We also conclude
that Rule 62.01 did not stay the dismissal of the writ of
supersedeas. Consequently, we affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Cherrelle Hooper, Gallatin, Tennessee, and Samuel Keen,
Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mahoganee Pelt.
Brandon R. Meredith, Gallatin, Tennessee, for the appellee,
Gallatin Housing Authority.
Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Andy J. Bennett, J., and J. Steven Stafford, P.J.,
NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE.
2015, a dispute arose between Mahoganee Pelt and her
landlord, the Gallatin Housing Authority ("GHA")
regarding the calculation of her rent. After Ms. Pelt failed
to make a required rent payment, GHA filed a detainer warrant
in the general sessions court for Sumner County, Tennessee.
GHA sought both possession of the premises and a monetary
judgment for unpaid rent and late fees. On June 18, 2015, the
general sessions court ruled that GHA was entitled to
possession and also awarded a monetary judgment for back
rent, interest, and damages.
26, 2015, Ms. Pelt petitioned the Circuit Court for Sumner
County, Tennessee, under Tennessee Code Annotated §
29-18-129, to issue writs of certiorari and supersedeas to
the general sessions court to stay execution of the writ of
possession and remove the action to the circuit court for de
novo review. After filing a poverty oath and an affidavit of
indigency, Ms. Pelt asked the court to waive any bond
requirement for costs or for any rent that might accumulate
during the appeal. In lieu of a bond, Ms. Pelt asked to pay
rent as it became due during the pendency of her appeal.
the circuit court, by fiat, ordered the court clerk to issue
the requested writs, ordered GHA to recalculate rent based on
Ms. Pelt's current income, and, in lieu of a bond,
required Ms. Pelt to pay the recalculated rent and other
charges as they became due during the litigation. GHA filed a
motion to dismiss the writs because Ms. Pelt had not posted a
possessory bond. The court ruled that Ms. Pelt was
statutorily required to post a bond to cover costs, damages,
and the value of the rent during litigation. The court
ordered Ms. Pelt to post a bond of $2, 199, which was
comprised of $1, 681 in damages, $216 in anticipated rent,
and $302 in circuit court costs.
August 5, 2015, Ms. Pelt filed a motion to alter or amend the
court's order. Ms. Pelt explained that she was unable to
obtain the required bond and requested that the court allow
her to meet the bond requirement by paying rent as it became
due. The court denied the motion, dismissed the writs of
certiorari and supersedeas with prejudice, and entered
judgment against Ms. Pelt in the amount of $1, 996.82.
after the court dismissed the writ of supersedeas, GHA
obtained a writ of possession from the general sessions court
clerk. A copy of the writ and a Notice of Eviction was posted
on Ms. Pelt's door on August 17, informing her that she
would be evicted on August 20. Ms. Pelt claims she "was
forced to vacate the premises because of these documents
posted to her door indicating she was under an order to
Pelt raises three issues on appeal. First, she contends that
the circuit court erred in determining that Tennessee Code
Annotated § 29-18-129 requires indigent defendants in an
unlawful detainer action to post a bond with security
sufficient to cover costs, damages, and the value of rent
during the litigation. Second, she argues that the court
erred in dismissing the writ of certiorari with the writ of
supersedeas after she failed to post a possessory bond.
Third, she claims that GHA's execution of the writ of
possession violated the thirty-day stay in Rule 62.01 of the
Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure.
resolve these issues, we must interpret both statutes and
procedural rules and apply them to the undisputed facts.
Statutory construction and the interpretation of our
procedural rules are questions of law, which we review de
novo, with no presumption of correctness. Lind v. Beaman
Dodge, Inc., 356 S.W.3d 889, 895 (Tenn. 2011).
Unlawful Detainer Actions
detainer is a statutory action created to
"streamline the cumbersome and more formal common law
action[s], such as ejectment, used to determine rightful
possession of real property." Newport Hous. Auth. v.
Ballard, 839 S.W.2d 86, 89 (Tenn. 1992); Tenn. Code Ann.
§ 29-18-104. At the commencement of an unlawful detainer
action, the plaintiff must post a bond "to pay all costs
and damages which shall accrue to the defendant for the
wrongful prosecution of the suit." Tenn. Code Ann.
§ 29-18-111 (2012).
cases filed in general sessions court,  the judge
determines which party is entitled to possession and enters
judgment accordingly. Id. § 29-18-119(b)
(2012). In conjunction with the judgment of possession, the
judge is also statutorily required to "ascertain the
arrearage of rent, interest, and damages, if any, and render
judgment therefor." Id. § 29-18-125
(2012); see Nashville Hous. Auth. v. Kinnard, 207
S.W.2d 1019, 1020 (Tenn. 1948) ("[T]he judgment for rent
and damages [is] incidental to the judgment for
possession."). The judgment of possession is only stayed
for ten days. Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-18-126 (2012).
Thereafter, a prevailing plaintiff is entitled to possession
immediately. Id. § 29-18-130(a) (2012).
unsuccessful defendant in an unlawful detainer action has two
options for seeking de novo review in circuit court.
Johnson v. Hopkins, 432 S.W.3d 840, 845 & n.5
(Tenn. 2013). A notice of appeal can be filed within ten
days. Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-18-128 (2012). Or the losing
party can, within thirty days, petition the circuit court for
writs of certiorari and supersedeas. Id. §
defendant chooses to petition for writs of certiorari and
supersedeas under Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-18-129,
the circuit court must grant the petition and issue the
requested writs if the applicant submits a petition
containing a meritorious defense and a bond with sufficient
security to cover all costs, damages, and the value of the
rent of the premises during the litigation. Id.
§ 29-18-129; Elliott v. Lawless, 53 Tenn. 123,
126 (1871). The writ of certiorari removes the case to the