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.
- Supply heat and air to the same degree they existed at the beginning of the lease.
- Supply a “functioning floor and building envelope.” This is not defined.
- 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.