Ejectment: a legal process
Your rented place being padlocked by the landlord/lessor, your personal belongings being removed by the owner of the place without your consent, or local thugs physically forcing you to vacate the rented premises are all deplorable actions which are not allowed by law.
The Philippine Civil Code does not recognize acquisition of possession through force or intimidation. He who believes that he has a right to deprive another of the holding of the thing must invoke the aid of a competent court if the holder refuses to deliver it (Article 536).
Barron’s Law Dictionary defines ejectment as a legal action brought about by one claiming the right to possess real property against another who possesses the premises adversely or who is a holdover tenant who remains beyond the termination of the lease.
However, under the Rules of Civil Procedure, ejectment is a legal remedy for forcible entry or unlawful detainer.
Forcible entry is when a person is deprived of the possession of any land or building by force, intimidation, threat, strategy, or stealth. Unlawful detainer, however, happens when the possession of any land or building is unlawfully withheld from the owner or lessor after the expiration of the contract or the termination of the vendee’s right to hold possession (Section 1, Rule 70 of the Rules of Civil Procedure).
An example of forcible entry is when someone enters your land without your permission and builds a structure inside the property. On the other hand, an example of unlawful detainer is when a contract of lease expires or is terminated without the lessee/renter surrendering the possession of the premises to the owner. In any of these instances, ejectment becomes the legal option for the owner to regain possession.
The requirements may vary depending on the basis of the action for ejectment.
If the ejectment is rooted on forcible entry, the complaint must allege prior physical possession and that the deprivation of possession is by reason of force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth.
If the action for ejectment springs from unlawful detainer, the lessor or owner shall push through with the action only after a demand to pay or comply with the conditions of the lease and to vacate has been made upon the lessee or renter (Section 2, Rule 70).
Regardless of the basis of the action for ejectment, it must always be verified. In fact, all pleadings filed in ejectment cases must be verified (Section 4, Rule 70).
The actions for ejectment shall only be instituted and tried in the Metropolitan Trial Court or Municipal Trial Court where the real property involved or a portion thereof, is situated. The action shall be commenced against the person or persons unlawfully withholding or depriving another of possession, or any person or persons claiming under them. Ejectment action must be filed within 1 year from deprivation or withholding of possession (Section 1, Rule 70).
While ejectment cases are intended to be swift and speedy, some have abused the legal remedy. There are plaintiffs who unreasonably amend the contract to shorten the life of the lease. There are also defendants who prolong the litigation by dragging the mediation for months, or sometimes creatively file pleadings that are not prohibited by the Rules. Worse, even after judgment by the Municipal Trial Court, some defendants refuse to surrender possession despite clear declarations from the court requiring them to vacate.
The complaint for ejectment has to be responded to or answered by the defendant within a period of 10 days (Section 6, Rule 70). This period was not affected by the amendment of the Rules of Court extending the period to file an answer to 30 days since ejectment is a special civil action covered by special rules. In case no answer was filed, the court can render a judgment based on the allegations of the complaint. A motion to declare the defendant in default and motion to dismiss are prohibited pleadings in ejectment cases.
The preliminary conference shall be scheduled no later than 30 days after the answer is filed. This conference is the equivalent of a pre-trial in ordinary cases. The failure of the plaintiff to appear in the conference shall result in the dismissal of his complaint and the defendant shall be entitled to a judgment on his counterclaim. On the other hand, if the defendant shall fail to appear, the plaintiff shall be entitled to judgment. While postponement is disallowed, it may be granted for highly meritorious grounds and without prejudice to the sanctions that the court may impose on the movant (Section 8, Rule 70).
There is no trial in ejectment cases, and only submission by the parties of the affidavits of their witnesses and position papers within 10 days from receipt of the order is required. Thereafter, the court will have to render judgment within 30 days after receipt of the affidavits and position papers, or after the expiration of the period for filing the same (Sections 10 and 11, Rule 70).
The judgment in ejectment cases is executory unless the defendant perfects the appeal and files a supersedeas bond in favor of the plaintiff, and if during the pendency of the appeal, the defendant deposits with the Regional Trial Court the amount of rent due from time to time under the contract. If the defendant fails to make the rental payments to the RTC, the court shall order the execution of the judgment by restoring the possession of the real property to the plaintiff, but the execution of such shall not bar the appeal (Section 19, Rule 70).
The judgment rendered in an action for forcible entry or unlawful detainer shall be conclusive with respect to the possession only and shall in no wise bind the title or affect the ownership of the land or building. Such a judgment shall not bar an action between the same parties respecting the title to the land or building (Section 18, Rule 70).
To avoid ejectment cases, landowners should check the background of the lessee or renter, require advanced payments and deposits, and agree on the periodic increase of rental payments with the lessee. Lessees must, in turn, pay monthly rentals on time, lease only those properties that they can afford, refrain from sub-leasing unless expressly stipulated in the contract of lease, and review the contract of lease before signing to be aware of their obligations under the contract.