Contributed by Courtney Brooks.
Most people have rented an apartment or a house at some point in their life, and likely many have run into issues along the way. It can be confusing as a tenant to know what your rights are and how to assert them, but it is important for both the landlord and the tenant to know the law.
Arkansas generally affords tenants less rights than other states, and most rights that a tenant has can be found in the text of the lease itself. For example, a landlord generally is only responsible for making repairs if the lease states that they maintain responsibility for repairs. Until this year, Arkansas had no semblance of a habitability statute, meaning that landlords did not have to provide tenants with a “fit” place to live. Now, according to Act 1052 of 2021, tenants can move out and get their security deposit back if the landlord doesn’t provide certain amenities. These include a source of hot and cold running water, a source of electricity, a source of potable drinking water, a functioning roof and building envelope, a functioning heat and air conditioning system (working at the time the lease began), and a sanitary sewage system and plumbing. In order to move out without penalty, however, the tenant needs to be current on their rent and give the landlord 30 days to remedy the problem.
It is typical for a landlord to ask for a security deposit, which they will use to pay for any damages or repairs that are needed once you have finished your lease term. If your landlord owns six or more properties, or has someone manage or collect rent on the property, certain laws apply. Under these laws, the landlord may not ask for more than two months rent as a security deposit. Within 60 days of the lease termination, the landlord must return the security deposit to you, or give you a list of damages and the amount they have withheld from the deposit to repair those damages. If the landlord does not do these things, you may be entitled to damages.
Landlords are allowed to charge reasonable late fees for late payments of rent. However, when rent has not been paid by the due date, a landlord can pursue an unlawful detainer action against you. The landlord must provide you with three days’ notice to leave the premises, and if you do not do so they can file a complaint with the court. If you respond and object to the eviction, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether you have breached your lease agreement for failure to pay rent, as well as determining how much rent you still owe. The court can order that the sheriff can remove you from the unit, and the landlord can get a judgment against you for the remaining rent owed. As of the date of this blog, the CDC Eviction Moratorium is still in effect, and will remain in effect until October 3, 2021. If you are being evicted, it is important to submit a timely response to the court showing that you have given your landlord the signed CDC Moratorium.
There are many more issues related to landlord/tenant law that aren’t covered in this blog. Our team at Miller Butler is prepared to help with any disputes you may encounter, and we are ready and able to advise you of your rights. If you are in need of an attorney, don’t hesitate to give us a call.