Tenants in Arkansas have fewer rights than any other state in the U.S. according to the findings of a commission created by the state's General Assembly to study, review and report on the state's landlord-tenant laws.
Calling existing laws in Arkansas “significantly out of balance,” the Non-Legislative Commission on the Study of Landlord-Tenant Laws is proposing 15 major reforms to level the playing field between landlords and tenants. Established by Act 1198 of 2011, the Commission released its report last week after nine months of study.
The Commission consists of appointed members of the Arkansas Realtors Association, the Landlords Association of Arkansas, the Affordable Housing Association of Arkansas, Governor Mike Beebe, the state House of Representatives and Senate, the Arkansas Bar Association and deans of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Bowen School of Law,
“Arkansas is the only state in which it is actually a crime for a tenant to pay rent,” stated Commission member and UALR Law Professor Lynn Foster.
Arkansas also has no implied warranty of habitability, meaning that landlords are under no legal obligation to make property that they lease to tenants safe or livable.
“This can have serious consequences for the health and safety of Arkansas families who are completely without recourse under current law,” noted Foster.
The Commission is specifically recommending the repeal of the criminal eviction statute in conjunction with the implementation of a streamlined eviction process and enactment of an implied warranty of habitability. Other recommendations include changes to bring existing law more in line with the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act.
“There are good landlords out there who already voluntarily include many of these recommended protection in their lease agreements,” said Commission Chair Stephen Giles. “If implemented, these reforms will not only put landlords and tenants on more equal footing, but also make it more difficult for unscrupulous landlords to compete with the good ones.”
“The Commission was right to recommend the repeal of Arkansas's draconian failure-to-pay-rent law, which tramples on the rights of tenants and brands people as criminals for falling behind on their rent,” stated Chris Albin-Lackey, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch is an independent organization that focuses on defending and protecting human rights around the world. The organization conducted a study of the human rights impact of Arkansas's criminal eviction statute in 2012. Albin-Lackey said its findings would be released in February.
The UALR Law Review will host a symposium to study Arkansas law and policing concerning tenant rights, including findings of the Commission report on Feb. 1.
The full report can be found at: http://www.arkansasjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/%20attachment/Landlord-Tenant%20Commission%20 Report.pdf