No rights for tenants in Arkansas 

Study panel wants landlords to fix properties, end retaliatory eviction.

In early October, Petrice Howard noticed hundreds of tiny water droplets beading the ceiling of her daughters' bedroom in her rented Baring Cross home. Soon after, black mold spread across the walls, ceiling and baseboards of the bedroom and then spread to the bathroom and an adjoining room, her sons' bedroom. Howard notified her landlord immediately.

A month later, when nothing had been done, she reported the problem to North Little Rock code enforcement. Two days after the city's inspection, Howard received a warning from Big Dog Homes LLC that because her house wasn't "in order," she had broken her year-long lease, and no more rent would be accepted until she rectified the situation. Two weeks after that, Howard received a 10-day notice to vacate.

"I wrote the owner a letter and asked what policy has she violated? You just can't go in and evict a person because their house isn't set up the way you want it," said Alicia Walton-Middleton, Howard's neighbor and a criminal and family attorney. Walton-Middleton, who learned of Howard's predicament through the Baring Cross Neighborhood Association, believes the eviction notice was retaliation against Howard for calling code officers.

Arkansas renters have fewer rights than those in any other state. For example: Arkansas is the only state in the nation without an implied warranty of habitability, which means Arkansas landlords are not required to make repairs or maintain their properties. Arkansas is one of only 10 states that don't prohibit retaliatory eviction.

The Non-Legislative Commission on the Study of Landlord-Tenant Laws, created in 2011 by the legislature, released a report Dec. 31 recommending 15 tenant-landlord law reforms.

"Ninety percent of landlords are good people, and 90 percent of tenants are good people, and we take care of our places to start with," said Howard Warren, who represents the Landlords Association of Arkansas on the commission. "The warranty of habitability is something the landlords would actually support, because it would make it harder for the bad landlords to make us all look bad."

Lynn Foster, professor at the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a member of the study commission, said, "If you're on a month to month lease, maybe it says the landlord makes repairs, maybe it doesn't — but if you report something to code, the first thing the landlord is going to do is try and evict you. That's why it's imperative that if we adopt a warranty of habitability, we also adopt a statute prohibiting retaliatory eviction."

Erin O'Leary with Arkansas Legal Services, a nonprofit that provides legal aid to low-income plaintiffs, says that a large part of the agency's business is helping tenants. "If your heat breaks, you can't withhold your rent or use your rent money to fix the heat. No matter what your living conditions, your responsibility to pay your rent on time and in full is never removed. For our clients of very limited means, they're choosing to get their heat fixed or to pay their rent on time. ... If they have to pay to get the heat fixed, the only mechanism to get that money back is to file in small claims court. But that's a lengthy process, and our clients can't wait a long time to get back $700."

The commission calls for changes in state law rather than relying on municipal codes, which are lacking in smaller towns and which are slow to be enforced where they do exist. They also don't cover all circumstances: While mechanical issues are covered by code, in cities where code exists, there are no guidelines for problems such as mold. "For me to prosecute you, as a landlord, I have to show you where you are violating the law," said Tom Wadley, North Little Rock Code Enforcement director. He refers mold calls to the state Department of Health.

Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

People who saved…

Most Shared

  • The Quapaw return to Arkansas

    Casino try a good bet.
  • Jean Gordon to receive Truth Teller award

    Jean Gordon, who's worked a half-century in just about every social justice and peace movement you can name, will receive the Arkansas Community Institute's 2014 Community Truth Teller Award at a program at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the library's Darragh Center
  • The French Hill 'tis better to receive-than-give open line

    An open line that features new Congressman French HIll's antipathy in the Catholic newspaper to Obamacare as a "giveaway" to drug companies and hospitals. A Catholic nurse points out that children and other people in need are the real beneficiaries of this giveaway, along with Catholic hospitals.
  • Fan happiness over Hogs' win over LSU costs UA $25,000 UPDATED

    The University of Arkansas will be fined $25,000 by the SEC because Hog fans stormed the football field after Saturday's victory over LSU snapped a long SEC losing streak. It was a second offense by the UA of the conference's "access to competition area" policy.
  • GOP's new Obamacare attack

    It was inevitable. The long crusade against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has pivoted from a battle against socialism to a populist war against big business: The program known as Obamacare is now supposed to be merely a feed trough for the captains of industry, not a government program to force health care on the undeserving poor.

Latest in Arkansas Reporter

Event Calendar

« »

November

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30  

Most Viewed

  • Homicide Diary: blood and asphalt

    More voices from the streets of Little Rock. The latest in our series.
  • The Quapaw return to Arkansas

    Casino try a good bet.
  • The future of Social Security

    I've heard many people lament that Social Security won't be around by the time they need it. Social Security is quite sound and is well run. It has to be tweaked from time to time to keep it that way, and that's where the voters come in.
  • Clinton's foreign policy legacy

    Left to right, moderator James Bennet of The Atlantic; Sandy Berger, the former national security advisor; retired Gen. Wesley Clark, the former NATO commander; Ambassador Nancy Soderberg; Mara Rudman, former chief of staff of the National Security Council, and Robert Strong, a professor at Washington and Lee University.
  • For the least of these

    French Hill and the pope, the killing of a mountain lion, the inequality of Arkansas, preschool v. prisons, senator fighting for inequality threatens University of Arkansas funding and the return of the Huck.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The Quapaw return to Arkansas

    • I'm the oldest son of the oldest son of the oldest son of the oldest…

    • on November 20, 2014
  • Re: The Quapaw return to Arkansas

    • That's what we need...another casino. Look how Tunica is tanking. I hope this doesn't happen.

    • on November 19, 2014
 

© 2014 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation