Here are the “top ten” myths and facts about landlord-tenant law in Arkansas
- MYTH: Arkansas doesn’t need an implied warranty of habitability. FACT: Arkansas is the only state in the U.S. where residential landlords are not required by law to provide safe, clean, livable premises for their tenants.
- MYTH: Arkansas has fair eviction laws. FACT: Arkansas is the only state in the U.S. where residential landlords can go to the police or sheriff and get the state to prosecute a tenant who can’t pay rent. Did you know your tax dollars subsidize lawyers for landlords?
- MYTH: Having to appear in court under Arkansas’s criminal eviction law is no worse than getting a parking ticket. FACT: Ten district courts in Arkansas report that they jail tenants under the failure to vacate statute.
- MYTH: Denial of rights to Arkansas tenants allows Arkansas to have the lowest rent in the U.S. FACT: In 2013, both South Dakota and Kentucky had lower fair market rent than Arkansas. Neither of these states allows tenants to be criminalized for nonpayment of rent. Both of these states have a warranty of habitability. No direct causation has been proved between low rent and lack of tenants’ rights in Arkansas.
- MYTH: Proposed legislation will apply to commercial landlords and tenants. FACT: Proposed legislation only applies to residential landlords.
- MYTH: Tenants don’t need an implied warranty of habitability because they can report a landlord to code enforcement. FACT: Many areas in Arkansas have
no city housing codes or code inspectors. Some parts of Arkansas that do have only a handful of inspectors and cannot keep up with the calls or resolve violations in a timely manner. And, if you rent month to month, there’s nothing stopping
your landlord from terminating your lease or raising your rent if you report him for a code violation.
- MYTH: Under the doctrine of “constructive eviction,” tenants can simply terminate their leases if premises are uninhabitable. FACT: A tenant must move out to exercise it (sacrificing the security deposit) to use this remedy. If the tenant is sued in court and loses, he or she will owe the rest of the rent. This is a very old doctrine and its failure to help residential tenants was one reason why every other state adopted an implied warranty of habitability or similar rule. Under an implied warranty of habitability, a tenant can stay on the premises and force the landlord to make repairs.
- MYTH: Adding an implied warranty of habitability will drive up the cost for landlords to do business. FACT: Good landlords already provide safe, clean, and livable properties for their tenants and good landlords agree to routine maintenance and repairs in their lease agreements. An implied warranty will simply hold all landlords to the same minimum standard. As a society, we ask for edible food, drinkable water and safe products. Why not habitable living spaces?
- MYTH: Tenants who fail to pay rent but continue to live in a rental property are stealing from the landlord and should be prosecuted. FACT: Landlords are business owners and should be able to evict non-paying tenants so that they can re-let to paying tenants. However, treating non-paying tenants like criminals for failing to pay is like making it a crime to default on a mortgage or credit card.
- MYTH: Changing the law will subject landlords to the risk of huge money judgments against them. FACT: Arkansas law already limits landlord tort liability to only very narrow circumstances. No legislation proposed during the last several legislative sessions would have changed that fact. Landlords could be liable for the reduced value of the premises, or could be forced to repair premises under the proposed laws but would not be liable for personal injuries to tenants or their property.