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HB1166 NO!

HB1166 was assigned today to the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee, which has a very short bill list–so it could be heard tomorrow and could be voted on early next week in the Senate.

On its face HB1166 looks good. It requires landlords to do certain things to benefit tenants. No one could argue with that, correct? Well–here is all a landlord has to do.

  1. Supply heat and air to the same degree they existed at the beginning of the lease.
  2. Supply a “functioning floor and building envelope.” This is not defined.
  3. Supply water, plumbing and electricity.

At “common law” or case law, a landlord must supply livable premises, and if the landlord fails to do so, the tenant can sue and terminate the lease but must move out to do so–the tenant has no right to repair. This bill gives the landlord the duty to repair but leaves the tenant with the right only to move out. The tenant cannot sue but in fact must under the bill wait 30 days, because a landlord has 30 days to repair.

Let’s say an apartment is badly infested with mold (a BIG problem in Arkansas). That’s not covered by this bill.

Or let’s say an apartment has raw sewage in it. This would be covered by HB1166. Now under current law, a tenant would have to notify the landlord and allow reasonable time for repair (almost certainly less than 30 days, as this is health-threatening) and move out. A tenant could sue for property damages and moving costs. If the landlord’s conduct was particularly malicious a tenant could sue for punitive damages.

Under HB1166 all the tenant can do is move out, after waiting for 30 days. HB doesn’t do anything to protect the tenant from future retaliation by the landlord.

Is this really a step forward? Good landlords already provide these things. This bill gives bad landlords lots of ways around it.

Here’s who is on the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee. Please tell them to VOTE NO on HB1166. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Senator Jason Rapert
Senator Greg Standridge
Senator Cecile Bledsoe
Senator Joyce Elliott
Senator Stephanie Flowers
Senator Jeremy Hutchinson
Senator David J. Sanders
Senator Larry Teague

 

3/14 Update–Landlords, Who Has Your Backs?

SB600, the civil eviction bill that would bring affordable, quick yet fair eviction proceedings to all Arkansas counties, was heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday of this week. Although weeks ago when voting in favor of the criminal eviction bill, several senators on this committee said words to the effect that they knew a civil eviction bill would be much better–they just didn’t have one to vote on–now the narrative changed to–what was this bill? They didn’t know anything about it–they couldn’t vote on it now. The bill was explained–it sounds good. Quick but fair. Tenants are advised of rights and have three days to cure late rent. Not good enough for our legislators, though.  The Arkansas Realtors Association lobbyists, who stated to tenant advocates that the Association was neutral on the bill, quickly left the room when the bill was called so that they were not there when the senators asked what the position of the Association was. Our guess-in secret, they are telling senators the eviction proceeding will be bad.

Folks, eviction in Arkansas is a MESS. There are currently three procedures being used in Arkansas and all are defective. And lots of self-help evictions, which are ILLEGAL, are taking place as well. Don’t the realtors understand this? Why don’t they want to give the landlords a fair, quick procedure that doesn’t make tenants criminals? What’s up with them?

If you can, thank Senators Will Bond and Reps. Capp and Sabin for sponsoring this bill. We’re hoping it comes up again, although the session is close to ending. We are told Sen. Hutchinson is sponsoring the bill as well, although his name does not appear on the official website as a cosponsor.

HB1166, explained in detail elsewhere, will make things worse for tenants. It looks like it’s a good first step to require landlords to provide better housing, but there’s no enforcement! If tenants don’t like it–they can move out. Seriously, that’s the solution to our housing and tenants’ rights problems. And if a landlord gets angry with a tenant who complains, or reports to Code Enforcement the landlord can simply evict the tenant if she’s month-to-month. And the bill doesn’t require landlords to do anything at all about problems like mold, rats, roaches, bedbugs, safety features like door locks, smoke detectors. . . you get the idea. Rep. Laurie Rushing, a realtor (hmm, is there a connection here?) is sponsoring this bill, along with many other representatives who have doubtless been sold the goods that it is a good first step. Beware–it’s not a good first step. This bill has not yet left the House Insurance and Commerce Committee. Judiciary would have been the logical committee for it. No votes yet.

HB2135, on the other hand, is a great first step. It requires landlords to do meaningful things, like provide doors and bedroom windows that lock, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, safe common areas (hallways, stairs, elevators, parking lots), a roof that doesn’t leak, heat, working plumbing, electricity and water–and several more things, most of which are not required by HB1166. And in addition to moving out, a tenant can sue for repairs, forcing them to be made, and is protected from retaliation by the landlord. Best of all, at the beginning of the lease the tenant and landlord must sign a list of defects so there’s agreement at the outset as to the quality of the premises. Reps. Warwick Sabin and Greg Leding are sponsors. Thanks to them! This bill is also currently in the House Insurance and Commerce Committee. No votes yet.