Congress allocated $200 million for Mississippi rental assistance in the latest stimulus package. Here's how to add yourself to the waitlist. Credit: Associated Press

Tenants could be forced to leave their home immediately after a court rules they are behind on their rent under legislation the Mississippi Senate approved Friday.

The bill, which now goes to the House, would allow a judge to provide a three day “grace period” if it is determined the delay “would serve the best interests of justice and equity.”

Under current law, the renter would have up to 10 days to evacuate the property before the landlord could formally request a warrant of removal from the court. The new law would allow for a warrant to be issued immediately upon an eviction judgement.

Sen. Jenifer Branning, R-Philadelphia, said the renter would have “due process” before being evacuated, including a court hearing. Mississippi law allows a landlord to begin the evacuation process if a tenant is three days late on rent.

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, who opposed the legislation, said Mississippi already had one of the most restrictive laws in terms of providing rights for tenants. He joked that a tenant could be penalized if “there were five cock roaches when he moved in and only three when he left.”

Bryan said he believed the 10 day grace period was more appropriate.

“In the overall scheme of things, 10 days does not mean that much to the landlord, but it could mean everything to the poor tenant,” he said. He said law enforcement could come and put all of the renter’s belongings on the street on the same day the judge – normally a justice court judge or municipal judge – issues the warrant to remove the tenant.

A Mississippi Today investigation found that landlords and judges alike interpret the current 10-day warrant rule differently, and eviction time and outcomes are largely determined by where the tenant lives.

The bill was opposed by 12 members of the 52-member Senate.

Erica Hensley contributed reporting to this story. 

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.