RE: Please Vote NO on Senate Bill 25
Dear Representative ____________,
I am opposed to Senate Bill 25, which amends Arkansas’s failure to vacate statute.
If SB 25 is enacted, Arkansas will remain the only state to criminalize nonpayment of rent. Our limited law enforcement resources should be used to fight crime, not to enforce civil contracts. This statute effectively subsidizes landlords, who don’t have to hire attorneys to sue to evict. Taxpayers foot the bill for prosecuting attorneys who handle these cases. The bill causes a tenant who is just one day late with the rent to lose her housing, if her landlord wants her out and gives her a 10-day notice. If she doesn’t leave, she’s guilty of a criminal violation, resulting in a fine, and much more serious consequences if the fine is not paid. No other state has a law like this.
Civil contract disputes should be resolved by civil courts. Arkansas already has a civil eviction law—the unlawful detainer statute—that allows a civil judge to issue a writ of possession. For cases of nonpayment, a writ of possession can be ordered less than ten days from the date of the missed payment. In contrast, a failure to vacate case cannot begin until at least eleven days after a missed payment. Using civil courts for evictions is more efficient because the court can resolve all the issues between the landlord and tenant in one case. In a failure to vacate case, the tenant cannot raise any issues such as the landlord’s failure to keep promises.
SB 25 does not fix the problems with Arkansas’s eviction laws. If enacted as written, SB 25 will likely face legal challenges that would leave Arkansas with a patchwork eviction system for another two years. Two Arkansas judges have said that the existing failure to vacate statute is entirely unconstitutional. Amending just one part of the statute will not fix this. Adding a process for eviction to a criminal law may create new problems, because an eviction is not a criminal sanction.
I urge you to oppose this bill. Thank you for your attention and consideration.
Very truly yours,