Laws and Past Legislation

CURRENT LAWS

  1. The Arkansas Residential Landlord-Tenant Act was enacted in 2007. This law  is based on the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act of 1974 (URLTA), an act that about 20 states have enacted into law. The URLTA has been introduced numerous times in the Arkansas legislature, which has failed to enact it every time. In 2007 it was finally enacted, but only the pro-landlord half. Under the Arkansas version of the act, landlords have both obligations and remedies, but tenants have only obligations! The legislature deleted the “tenant remedies” part of the act before voting it into law. An adjunct law professor at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville wrote an article and a sequel about how bad this statute is. The original is not available on the Internet, but the sequel can be found here.
  2. The Failure to Vacate statute was enacted in 1901. If one fewer senator had voted for it, it would not have been enacted and Arkansas tenants’ lives would have been much better. Since January 2015, three Arkansas circuit courts have ruled that it is unconstitutional. Ann additional county has stopped taking complaints. Prior to the decisions, more than a third of Arkansas counties already did not enforce it. But hundreds of tenants each year in Hot Springs, Fort Smith, Springdale and other places are still criminalized under it for failure to pay rent, instead of being civilly evicted. Originally the law simply called for a daily fine of no more than $25 if the tenant was found guilty of the misdemeanor of failing to vacate premises after not paying rent and having been given notice to leave. But in 2001 the legislature ratcheted up the penalties. After 2001, if the tenant didn’t deposit the amount of rent the landlord (not the court) said was due, according to this strange Catch-22 of a statute, the tenant couldn’t receive a trial. If for whatever reason the tenant was tried and was found guilty but hadn’t paid the alleged rent to the court, the tenant would be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or 90 days in jail. Also, the convicted tenant is now liable for a daily fine of $25 for each day the tenant remains on the premises, even if the tenant has paid the rent into court.
  3. Self help by landlords occurs when a landlord physically evicts a tenant without a court order. In Gorman v. Ratliff, an Arkansas Supreme Court case decided in 1986, the court made self help illegal. Nonetheless, landlords around the state use it to force tenants to leave. Landlords who change the locks, remove the doors, cut off utilities, or tell tenants they are calling the police to force them out, without a court order authorizing them to do so, are committing illegal self help. Arkansas Legal Services suggests calling an attorney and the police if this happens to you.
  4. Laws regarding tenants’ property are not balanced. Arkansas statutes allow landlords to dispose of tenants’ property as of moment a lease is terminated, whether the termination is voluntary or not. If a tenant has not paid all money agreed to, the landlord can keep or sell the tenant’s property as satisfaction.