Chapter 14 - Summary Proceedings to Recover Possession of Leased Realty and Certain Ancillary Relief

Chapter 14 - Summary Proceedings to Recover Possession of Leased Realty and Certain Ancillary Relief

43.1401 Definitions.


As used in this chapter unless the context otherwise requires, the following meanings apply:

(a) “Summary proceedings” means a civil action to recover possession of premises and to obtain certain ancillary relief as provided by this chapter and by court rules adopted in connection with these proceedings.

(b) “Premises” means lands, tenements, condominium property, cooperative apartments, air rights and all manner of real property. It includes structures, fixed or mobile, temporary or permanent, vessels, mobile trailer homes and vehicles which are used or intended for use primarily as a dwelling or as a place for commercial or industrial operations or storage.

(c) “Lease”, means a written or verbal lease or license agreement for use or possession of premises.

43.1402 Jurisdiction.


The Trial Division of the High Court of American Samoa has jurisdiction over summary proceedings to recover possession of premises under this chapter.

43.1403 Rules.


Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, the procedure in summary proceedings is regulated by rules adopted by the High Court of American Samoa.

43.1404 Entry upon realty-Authorization-Manner.


A person may not make entry into or upon premises unless the entry is permitted by law. If entry is permitted by law, he may not enter with force but only in a peaceable manner.

43.1405 Grounds for summary recovery of possession.


The person entitled to any premises may recover possession of the premises by summary proceedings in the following cases:

(1) whenever a person holds over any premises, after failing or refusing to pay rent due under the lease or agreement by which lie holds after 7 days from the service of a written demand for possession for nonpayment of the rent due for the purpose of this provision, “rent due” does not include accelerated indebtedness by reason of a breach of the lease under which the premises are held; or

(2) whenever a person holds over any premises in either of the following circumstances:

(A) after termination of the lease, pursuant to a power to terminate provided in the lease or implied by law; or

(B) after the term for which the premises are demised to him or to the person under whom he holds; or

(3) whenever the person in possession willfully or negligently causes a serious and continuing health hazard to exist on the premises, or causes extensive and continuing physical injury to the premises and when the person in possession neglects or refuses for 7 days after service of a demand for possession of the premises or to substantially restore or repair the premises; or

(4) whenever a person takes possession of premises by means of a forcible entry, holds possession of premises by force after a peaceable entry or comes into possession of premises by trespass without color of title or other possessory interest.

43.1406 Demand for possession or payment-Form-Contents.


A demand for possession or payment must be in writing, addressed to the person in possession, and must include the address or a brief description of the premises. The reasons for the demand and the time to take remedial action must be clearly stated. Whenever nonpayment of rent or other sums due under the lease is claimed, the amount due at the time of the demand must be stated. The demand must be dated and signed by the person entitled to possession, or by his attorney or agent.

43.1407 Service of demand.


The demand provided for in 43.1406 may be served by delivering it personally to the person in possession, or by delivering it on the premises to a member of his family or household or an employee, of suitable age and discretion, with a request that it be delivered to the person in possession, or by sending it by registered mail addressed to the person in possession with return receipt requested signed by the person in possession or his authorized agent. If the demand is mailed, the date of service for purposes of this chapter is the date of receipt by the person in possession or his authorized agent.

43.1408 Circumstances precluding entry of judgment for possession-Retaliatory termination of tenancy defense.


A judgment for possession of the premises for an alleged termination of tenancy may not be entered against a defendant if one or more of the following is established:

(1) the alleged termination was intended primarily as retribution for a lawful act arising out of the tenancy;

(2) the plaintiff attempted to increase the defendant’s obligations under the lease or contract as a penalty for a lawful act and that the defendant’s failure to perform the additional obligations was the primary reason for the alleged termination of tenancy; or

(3) the plaintiff committed a breach of the lease which excuses the payment of rent if possession is claimed for nonpayment of rent.

43.1409 Pleadings-Motions-Process-Subpoenas-Witnesses. Compelling attendance and testimony-Defaults-Default judgments-Adjournments-Continuances.


Pursuant to applicable court rules, a court having jurisdiction over summary proceedings may provide for pleadings and motions, issue process and subpoenas, compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses, enter and set aside defaults and default judgments, allow amendments to pleadings, process, motions and orders, order adjournments and continuances, make and enforce all other writs and orders and do a1l other things necessary to hear and determine summary proceedings.

43.1410 Summons, issuance, service, contents, time summons remains in effect-Hearing, time.


(a) The court in which the proceeding is commenced issues a summons, which may be served on the defendant by any officer or person authorized to serve process of the court. The summons commands the defendant to appear for trial in accordance with this section.

(b) The summons commands the defendant to appear for trial within 10 days unless extended by the court. The summons must be served not less than 3 days before the date set for trial.

(c) A summons issued under this section remains in effect until served or quashed, or until the action is dismissed, but additional summons as needed for service may be issued upon plaintiff’s request.

(d) Except as otherwise provided by court rule, the proceeding must be heard within 7 days after the defendant’s appearance or trial date and may not be adjourned beyond that time other than by stipulation of the parties in writing or as directed by the court.

43.1411 Joinder of claims and counterclaims-Separate disposition of claim for possession.


Except as provided by court rules, a party to summary proceeding may join claims and counterclaims for money judgment for damages attributable to wrongful entry, detainer or possession, for breach of the lease or contract under which the premises were held or for waste or malicious destruction to the premises, but the court may order separate summary disposition of the claim for possession, without prejudice to other claims or counterclaims.

43.1412 Judgment for possession-Entry-Enforcement by writ of restitution-Determination of amount payable to preclude issuance of writ-Costs.


If the court finds that the plaintiff is entitled to possession of the premises, or part of the premises, judgment may be entered in accordance with the finding and may be enforced by a writ of restitution. If it is found that the plaintiff is entitled to possession of the premises, in consequence of the nonpayment of money due under a tenancy, the court determines the amount due or in arrears at the time of trial and states that amount in the judgment for possession. In determining the amount due under a tenancy the court deducts that portion of the rent which it finds to be excused by the plaintiffs breach of the lease. The statement in the judgment for possession is for the sole purpose of prescribing the amount which, together with taxed costs, is to be paid to preclude issuance of the writ of restitution. The judgment may include an award of costs, enforceable in the same manner as other civil judgments for money in the same court.

43.1413 Issuance of writ of restitution-Conditions.


(a) Subject to the time restrictions of this section, the court entering a judgment for possession issues a writ commanding an officer authorized to serve the process, causing the plaintiff to be restored and put in full possession of the premises.

(b) On conditions determined by the court, the writ of restitution may be issued immediately upon the entry of judgment for possession whenever one or more of the following is pleaded and proved, with notice, to the satisfaction of the court:

(1) forcible entry was made contrary to law; or

(2) entry was made peaceably but possession is unlawfully held by force; or

(3) the defendant came into possession by trespass without color of title or other possessory interest; or

(4) the tenant, willfully or negligently, is causing a serious and continuing health hazard to exist on the premises or is causing extensive and continuing injury to the premises and is neglecting or refusing either to deliver up possession after demand or to substantially restore or repair the premises.

(c) In all other cases, the writ of restitution may not be issued until the expiration of 10 days after the entry of the judgment for possession.

(d) If an appeal is taken or a motion for new trial is filed before the expiration of the period during which the writ of restitution may not be issued and if a bond to stay proceedings is filed, the period during which the writ may not be issued is tolled until the disposition of the appeal or motion for new trial is final.

(e) When the judgment for possession is for nonpayment of money due under a tenancy the writ of restitution may not issue if within the time provided, the amount as stated in the judgment, together with the taxed costs, is paid to the plaintiff

43.1414 Judgment for defendant for costs-Grounds.


If the plaintiff fails to prosecute his complaint, or if upon trial or motion the plaintiff is found not entitled to possession of the premises, judgment is rendered for the defendant for his costs, which are taxed and collected in the same manner as other civil judgments for money in the same court.

43.1415 Summary proceedings as additional to other remedies.


The remedy provided by summary proceedings is in addition to, and not exclusive of, other remedies, either legal, equitable or statutory. A judgment for possession under this chapter does not merge with or bar any other claim for relief.

43.1416 Review.


A party aggrieved by the determination or judgment of the court under this chapter may appeal to the appellate division of the High Court of American Samoa. The appeal is made in the same manner as an appeal in other civil actions from the same court, with bond and procedure as provided by court rules.