Suddenly, Rutledge is interested in state's terrible landlord-tenant law | Arkansas Blog

Monday, July 16, 2018

Suddenly, Rutledge is interested in state's terrible landlord-tenant law

Posted By on Mon, Jul 16, 2018 at 5:08 PM

Arkansas has the worst landlord-tenant law in the country, no thanks to Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who issued a news release today proclaiming concern about poor conditions for renters she read about in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

This gives you a rundown on current law. Thanks to the 2017 legislature, the real estate lobby came up with a bill that essentially preserves criminal penalties against tenants for non-payment, but provided no habitability protection against bad landlords. The legislation grew out of court rulings that the old criminal eviction statute was unconstitutional.

Here's where Rutledge came in. In a federal suit challenging the old state law, Judge Timothy Brooks invited Attorney General Rutledge to file an amicus brief. She dodged the request for a time, then asked for a delay in the case so the legislature could act, specifically citing a half-measure eventually passed that provided tenants with virtually no new protection. The real estate lobby was blamed for passing this poor substitute and killing better bills, some with guarantees of safe housing.

But Rutledge does read the newspaper, including the recent D-G article on abysmal conditions at some Little Rock apartments. She has an election opponent this year, by the way. So came this release:

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that she is demanding information and opened an investigation in response to events detailed in last week’s article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about run-down apartment conditions at both Bella Vista Apartments and Pleasant Ridge Apartments in Little Rock.

“Landlords should want to maintain not only livable conditions in their facilities, but should ensure high quality housing opportunities for Arkansans,” said Attorney General Rutledge.
“The reports given in last week’s newspaper are appalling and no one should be forced to live in unlivable conditions. I am seeking answers from both companies regarding their repair and maintenance practices at these and potentially other properties where Arkansans live and raise their children.”

It is the role of the Attorney General to investigate, research and analyze business practices and issues that affect consumer interests. The Attorney General is empowered to seek civil penalties, injunctive relief, suspension of business licenses, and attorney fees for proven violations of the law.

Citizens harmed by unsafe living conditions at Bella Vista Apartments and Pleasant Ridge Apartments in Little Rock should contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov. 
What landlords SHOULD do and what the law says they MUST do are different questions.

As it now stands, complaints about poor conditions are not a justification for refusal to pay rent. There are some experts in the field that Rutledge could consult to come up with some model landlord-tenant law, but that would be government regulation, you see, and Rutledge isn't much of a fan of that. No matter how abysmal the conditions lack of regulation produces.

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