A Judicial Implied Warranty of Habitability for Arkansas–At Last

On August 9, in a lawsuit filed by Alexander Apartments, LLC against the City of Little Rock, Judge Alice Gray issued an order granting partial summary judgment in favor of tenants who intervened in the lawsuit. The intervenor-tenants sought a ruling by Judge Gray that an implied warranty of habitability exists in Arkansas, either in all residential lease agreements within the state, or in the alternative in residential leases of property in cities with housing codes. The court said “no” to the first argument, but “yes” to the second. This is an exciting development in landlord-tenant law in our state. The court found that the Little Rock Housing Code sets minimum standards of habitability. It stated that “the modern weight of authority” across the U.S. is that such standards within housing codes are intended to be incorporated into residential leases. It also noted that the Arkansas Supreme Court “has long held” that laws in force when and where a contract is entered into enter into the contract and become a part of it.

A trial will follow to determine whether the landlord breached the implied warranty of habitability, presumably by serious violations of the housing code, and if so to determine the amount of damages.

This is a trial court’s ruling, and so could possibly be appealed and overturned. It could also be affirmed on appeal. Conceivably, it applies to residential rental property in Pulaski and Perry Counties located in cities or towns with housing codes, and not just Little Rock. Whatever the future of this decision, it is a historic decision in Arkansas legal history. We applaud this decision and and also Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley’s decision not to enforce the bizarre, one-of-its-kind and arguably unconstitutional failure to vacate law. These two actions are in contrast with the Arkansas legislature’s failure to enact any legislation placed before it that would bring Arkansas up to the standards of any other states.

What can you do? Are you a landlord, property manager or realtor that handles residential rentals? Are you ashamed to live in a state with the worst laws for tenants, because you keep up your rental property? Then contact your professional organizations–Landlords Association of Arkansas , National Association of Residential Property Managers, and Arkansas Realtors Association–and urge them to support the repeal of failure to vacate–the enactment of a fair, fast and inexpensive civil eviction procedure–an implied warranty of habitability. Make this an issue in the 2018 elections. Where do your legislators stand?