Arkansas Landlord-Tenant Law in the News
Pro-Landlord Bill Heading to Governor (KATV Feb. 9). Representative Laurie Rushing of Hot Springs told her colleagues that failure to vacate cases work out just fine. Perhaps that’s because she’s never been arrested, like Wilma Young, who was wrongly arrested, handcuffed in front of her children and jailed, under the law about to be signed and brought back by the governor, because her landlord made a mistake.
Mess Left for Landlord (KATV Jan. 31). Covers a Benton landlord who is losing money because of no way to evict bad tenants quickly. We agree that many landlords suffer under the current system. They can’t afford or find attorneys to handle civil unlawful detainer cases. Some courts don’t process them quickly. We need a civil statute fair to both landlords and tenants.
Bill Seeks to Help Landlords Evict Quicker, Cheaper (KATV Jan. 26). Covers the Senate Judiciary hearing on Wednesday and the vote on Thursday, to pass SB 25. In this article there is an account of a tenant’s story. This story happens over and over again. A tenant moves in and the landlord promises that he will make repairs because the place is in bad shape. The tenant believes him. No repairs are made and finally the tenant gets tired of having to live with the problems. This tenant reported the landlord to Code Enforcement. On the same day, the landlord (see the article for his name) changed the locks and did not return the tenant’s belongings, including her clothes, her new computer, her furniture and her medicine. In legal language, changing the locks, without an order from a court, is known as “self help.” Self help is ILLEGAL in Arkansas. If you have the money and time, you can hire an attorney to sue the landlord for “forcible entry and detainer.” Of course, if you are poor and have just lost the place where you live and all of your property, finding a lawyer might not be an easy or even possible thing to do.
Self help should be a crime. If a tenant reports a landlord to Code Enforcement because the premises violate housing codes, the law should protect a tenant from eviction. The law in most other states does.
Effort to Preserve Punishing Landlord-Tenant Law Continues (Arkansas Times Jan. 26). Coverage of the Senate Judiciary hearing on Wednesday on SB 25.
Criminal Eviction Bill Shy of Votes (Arkansas Online Jan. 26). Coverage of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on SB 25, to amend the failure to vacate law.
AG Rutledge Asks Federal Judge for Temporary Stay in Case on State’s Tenant Rights Law (KUAR Radio) This item is about a lawsuit filed in federal court in 2016 over the constitutionality of Arkansas’s failure to vacate law, which four Arkansas circuit courts declared unconstitutional in 2015. Meanwhile, Jonesboro legislators have introduced SB 25, which would repeal the worst aspects of our law but still make nonpayment of rent a misdemeanor crime and still essentially provide landlords with taxpayer-subsidized eviction assistance. And Arkansas will still be the only state where nonpayment of rent is a crime. Note the comment by Julie Mullenix, who lobbies for the Arkansas Realtors Association, at the end of the article about maintaining a “balance” in landlord-tenant law. Arkansas law is in fact shamefully out of balance and has been so for decades. The Arkansas Realtors Association consistently opposes any attempt at balanced, fair landlord-tenant law. See 2017 Bills for more information about SB 25.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families Senior Policy Analyst Eleanor Wheeler writes about the stark imbalance in state landlord-tenant laws and recommendations for improving them. (Arkansas Times)