Sheriff Evictions are always a tense situation where you never know what you are going to come across. Sometimes it's a family who has had issues which led to the eviction, and when there are children involved, it's especially heartbreaking. Other times it's a belligerent tenant who just refuses to pay and refuses to leave. Either way in the dozens of them that I have taken part in over the last 19 years, they all have one thing in common, save a handful. The homes are wrecked. The family situations often show signs of some sort of substance abuse or legal issues. I've seen cases where as the sheriff is entering the front door, someone goes running out the back door or window. Where paraphernalia is strewn around the house and where bugs and rodents have taken over the living spaces. Sometimes I see signs of mental illness, other cases of hoarding. I've been to cases where tenants are begging for more time, and others where they are kicking back in their easy chair like they are not planning on going anywhere.
The problem is, by the time it's required that I'm there...it's too late. The paperwork has all been filed, the judge has already signed the paperwork, the notifications to the tenant has been made, the landlords rights have been restored and it's time for them to leave. The sheriff is there to return possession of the property to its rightful owner or agent.
So what am I there for?
My job is to gain entry to the location then rekey the locks after the sheriff clears the premises.
If the tenant has already left and took the keys with them and the house is obviously vacant, those are the easier ones.
Other times, not so easy.
See, the Sheriffs department will bang on the door. They will announce themselves vocally hoping someone will open the door. What they won't do or can't do is force the door open, kick it down, or battering ram down the door like in a warrant situation. They don't want to be responsible to the landlord just getting their house back to return possession with a door they just destroyed. Therefore they require the owner or agent of the property to have a locksmith on standby to gain entry.
What does that mean?
That means I have to find a way to bypass the locks on the door so the sheriff can enter and clear the home.
How do I do that?
Most often I use the skill I've developed to pick the lock. Using instruments of the trade I manipulate the parts inside the lock to do what a key for the lock would normally do.
What makes that so difficult?
Different than when the average home owner or tenant has just locked themselves out, the tenant is standing beside me and obviously no one is in the residence to let them in.
In the case of an eviction there may be someone on the other side of that door who does not want that door to open. That person could be possibly armed with a weapon, and the guy with the gun on my side of the door is standing BEHIND me. I've definitely changed the way I have done this over the years.
When I first started I would pick the lock, turn the knob and open the door to let the Sheriff walk in. The first time I opened the door to see someone bolt out the back made me realize that's not very wise.
I changed my tactics to pick the lock, and grab my tools and get out of the way and let the sheriff turn the knob and open the door. I used to open the door just to be certain in my own mind that the lock had been unlocked. Now I just must have the confidence in my skills that I did. I'll always remember the time I was seeming to have difficulty unlocking the knob. Finally, I felt the lock to turn and knew I had been successful. I stepped away from the door and motioned to the sheriff to go ahead and thought I heard a faint click as I stepped away. The Sheriff reached for the knob and turned it to find it still locked. He looked at me questioningly and I just replied, "Hey, that was just unlocked".
He knew immediately what had happened, and he got MAD!
He started banging on the door and loudly yelling "OPEN THIS DOOR RIGHT NOW!". A young lady sheepishly opened the door with her toddler standing beside her. She told the Sheriff that her boyfriend had ran out the back and left her and the baby there when the Sheriff first announced their presence and she was scared to open the door. Scared or not, i'll tell you what. Relocking that lock was the wrong thing to do. When she started asking the Sheriff for time to get things together they were in no mood to give her any favors. When she started asking "can I get this, can I get that...?" the Sheriff said "No, because you locked our locksmith out!".
I admit that felt kind of good. They were always extremely professional, but not necessarily personable or chatty with me. That time I felt like I was actually part of the team.
When an agent schedules the Sheriff for an eviction, the sheriff gives an approximate time of arrival. The agent then needs to make sure they themselves and the locksmith they hire are there about 30 minutes prior to their arrival. This "standby time", I use to drive past the location a couple of times and look for signs of life at the location, call the owner and let them know I'm near, then park down the street where I can see the home, but not be in direct view of anyone still in the residence. Only when the Sheriff pulls up to the residence do I pull up also. The Sheriff then goes to the door with any keys the owner may have (which is usually none or non functional), announces themselves and tries the door. If no one opens the door or the keys don't work, the Sheriff then signals for me to come open the door.
On one occasion, I arrived my normal 30 minutes early, drove past a couple of times, but didn't see the agent anywhere.
I thought this was odd because this was a repeat customer who I had done other evictions with before and I knew he was aware of the procedure. I called the agent and he said something kind of strange. Apparently the owner of this home had paid for his house for 30 years or whatever his mortgage time was set. After he thought he had made his final payment, it was determined by the powers that be that for reasons unknown to me, he had an additional $2000.00 still due. Apparently he disagreed and fought this by suing the realtor, the city, the mayor and the police department. The agent then told me the Sheriff wanted us to meet up with them a few blocks away from the home. When I got to the said location there were about twenty sheriff and local city police vehicles in total and probably 30 officers. I knew then this was no ordinary eviction, if there was such a thing.