Ashley D. is a 22-year-old mother of two young children. She currently lives in an apartment in Sherwood that she is very happy with, but had to move from an unsuitable living situation in North Little Rock where she and her family had major problems with the heating system. In the middle of winter, the hot water heater broke and they were left without heat. She asked the landlord to fix it immediately, but her request went unanswered. After about a week she bought a window heating unit from a pawn shop. “It was the dead of winter and freezing. It was snowing. I had a 1-year-old then. I couldn’t wait any longer,” she recounted. She couldn’t take hot showers at home and would pay her neighbors to use their shower. The water heater was eventually fixed after three months. The apartment also had a constant cockroach infestation. “The roaches were just unbelievable. They were all in the bed—I had to pick them out of my baby’s hair. They were in our food. When we would get out of the shower we had to shake the towels because they would get in them too. We were coughing a lot.” The landlord did not help remedy the roach problem, and Ashley tried to bomb the apartment herself but the roaches always came back.
Alfred D., a 41-year-old North Little Rock resident, and his girlfriend have lived in a North Little Rock rental house for about 8 months and have experienced a handful of problems during this short time. The water lines have burst several times, even when taking precautions like leaving the water dripping. The electrical wiring is outdated and insufficient—there are only two circuits for the 5 room house and limited outlets. They have to make choices about how to use the available circuits—in the summer they need to decide what to unplug to use the air conditioner. A large extension cord runs from the front of the house to the back, carrying electricity from one end to the other to power appliances in the kitchen. He has requested repairs to the plumbing system that go unanswered. He has tried to fix the plumbing problems himself; he bought particle pipes and crawled under the house but found the plumbing system to be very piecemeal with different types of metal, iron and plastic pieces. “If it were my house we would have all one type of material. It’s too pieced together to really know what to do” he described. The landlady eventually arranged for someone to come out and take a look but nothing was fixed. Mr. Davis has had to leave work on several occasions because of the plumbing problems; and because he is self-employed and works on cars around town he loses business each time. Mr. Davis also has heating and insulation problems that dramatically increase his energy costs and make it difficult to properly heat his home. “We are heating the outside,” he said when describing the poor insulation around the doors.
Kevin had a bad termite problem at his home and informed the property management company right away. He described the termites: “they were coming through the sockets, vents, cracks in the wall. We were sucking them up with a vacuum. We would wake up and they’d be in our face. Thousands of them. It’s hard to sleep when you’re breathing in termites and you wake up and your bed is full of them. We went out and got our own spray, but you have to spray and then sleep there.” His request for assistance was never acted on, “they finally came out after termite season. We complained all season. I called the owner, too; they gave us the big run around. When the inspector did finally come out he looked at the wood and said he doesn’t know what’s keeping the house up. The owner had over 25 properties— he just didn’t have the finances or the desire to put anything into the houses he has. He said ours was one of the better ones. He and his wife live in a Winnebago—they travel a lot. They use the property management company to deflect the heat and not really do anything.”
Source of the above three examples: “Out of Balance: Arkansas Renters Share their Experiences Navigating the State’s Unique Landlord-Tenant Laws.”