Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Arkansas's shame, worst landlord-tenant law in the U.S.

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 5:18 PM

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I'm going to open the line with a 10-minute video from Vice that I recommend heartily. It should be mandatory viewing for every member of the Arkansas legislature.

It is old news. The Arkansas real estate lobby is so powerful and owns so many legislators that we have the worst landlord-tenant law in America. Failure to pay rent is a crime in Arkansas. Arkansas landlords have no legal responsibility to provide habitable living quarters. We are simply the worst in the United States.

I am pleased to see UALR law professor Lynn Foster speaking up in the video. The real estate lobby tried to vilify her for her calm and careful work on a commission that produced a unanimous recommendation to improve the law in 2013. Even landlords joined in the recommendations. But then they got cold feet when industry powers objected.

Tenants have no rights in Arkansas. We knew that.

But this video tells the story powerfully and simply. It includes an owner of many rental properties blithely defending the criminalization of nonpayment of rent. Very efficient, he says. He claims nobody has ever gone to jail. Lynn Foster begs to differ. I do, too. As a former police reporter, I used to regularly check jail dockets, I've seen the charge "failure to vacate" on booking sheets.

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