Anyone who pays rent deserves a reasonably safe place to call home, but believe it or not, Arkansas landlords are not required to make sure a property meets basic living standards.
A landlord can knowingly rent your family a place he or she knows is unsafe, and if you fail to pay your rent on time, they can have you charged with a criminal violation.
Arkansas is the only state in the U.S. without a “warranty of habitability,” which requires landlords to provide safe, clean, livable premises for their tenants. Arkansas is also the only state where residential landlords can go to the police or sheriff to evict a tenant, and then get the state to prosecute for non-payment of rent. Did you know your tax dollars subsidize lawyers for landlords?
The Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act is a set of laws designed to offer a balanced approach to rental rights. In 2007, the Arkansas State Legislature adopted the act, but stripped the pro-tenant pieces of the legislation. As a result, Arkansans who rent their homes have virtually no protection from bad landlords.
While the majority of Arkansas landlords do take care of their rental properties, these lax laws allow others to make a quick buck at the expense of their tenants. Without a warranty of habitability, slum landlords can continue renting houses, even as they deteriorate into dangerous structures.
In 2012 a commission was created to look into the state's tenant-landlord laws. Unfortunately, legislation to enact the suggestions, including a warranty of habitability, never made it out of committee in 2013, 2015 or 2019.
Given that nearly 1/3 of all Arkansans rent their homes, the absence of protections for renters poses potential problems for hundreds of thousands of people in our state each year. Several studies have been conducted on these laws, including research into the public health impact, a survey of how districts courts around the state deal with criminal eviction cases, and court case filing data.
It’s past time for Arkansas to enact a warranty of habitability and a streamlined civil eviction process to replace criminal eviction.
Reputable landlords already provide safe, clean, and livable properties to their tenants and provide for routine maintenance and repairs in their lease agreements. A warranty will simply hold all landlords to the same minimum standard.