A bill proposes change in landlord/tenant law; no improvement critic says. | Arkansas Blog

Monday, December 12, 2016

A bill proposes change in landlord/tenant law; no improvement critic says.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 12, 2016 at 12:48 PM

Sen. Blake Johnson has filed legislation to change the worst landlord-tenant law in the country (worst in terms of treatment of renters.)

But a critic of the law says it just perpetuates a rotten system. I think she's right. I'd written originally, an erroneously, that it seemed to make a modest correction.

The bill would alter the ability to file a criminal failure-to-vacate charge against a renter in arrears. Arkansas is the only state with such a law.

It would be replaced with something akin to a civil eviction procedure.

A court of competent jurisdiction may, upon conviction of a tenant for refusal to vacate upon notice, issue a:

(1) Writ of possession for the county sheriff to evict the tenant from the leased premises; or

(2) Court order to evict the tenant from the leased premises.
Some lower-level courts have held the criminal law unconstitutional, including in Northeast Arkansas, where Johnson lives. The legal action followed the legislature's refusal to adopt an earlier decriminalization proposal produced by a study commission including representatives of landlords and tenants.

But, writes Amy Johnson at Arkansans for Fair Landlord Tenant Laws, it's a bad bill.

This news from the legislature on a landlord-tenant bill filed by Senator Blake Johnson is decidedly NOT good. It is an attempt to resurrect the practice of criminal evictions in judicial districts where the law has been struck down. Under Senate Bill 25, failure to vacate is still a misdemeanor offense, meaning the landlord gets a taxpayer-funded lawyer to enforce a private contract.

Needless to say the bill filed by Sen. Johnson doesn't  include a further nicety rejected in the past by the legislature — minimum habitability standards for rental premises. The real estate lobby is fiercely opposed.

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