An Overview on Tenant Eviction Laws by an AR Property Attorney

Arkansas, in plain terms, is a “landlord friendly” state. As it turns out, Arkansas has a long standing tradition of adhering to the common law doctrine of “caveat lessee” (let the tenant beware).

When you rent a house or apartment, you usually agree to take it “as is”. This means that the landlord does not have to provide additional maintenance to the dwelling. Typically, landlords only have to make sure that the dwelling complies with city building codes.

The best way to understand the obligations between the landlord and the tenant is to enter into a written lease. A lease is a contract and is binding on both parties. In Arkansas, a landlord has no obligation to renew a lease, and in certain situations may terminate the lease and evict the tenant. Failure to pay rent or to pay rent on time, for any reason, is grounds for eviction.

There are two types of eviction procedures a landlord can use to get you to move: “unlawful detainer” (a civil eviction) and “failure to vacate” (a criminal eviction).

If a landlord uses the “unlawful detainer” method of eviction, he must give the tenant three (3) days written notice to vacate. If the tenant doesn’t vacate the premises, the landlord has grounds to file a lawsuit against the tenant. After the tenant receives a summons and notice of unlawful detainer, he has five (5) days excluding weekends and holidays to object in writing to the eviction. If the tenant does not file an objection, he can be removed from the dwelling by the Sheriff. If the tenant does object, a hearing will be scheduled to determine whether the tenant has any right to possession of the property. This method may seem more expensive because the landlord will incur legal fees and costs, however the process achieves its goal much quicker than the “failure to vacate” thereby actually saving the landlord money. A good Arkansas attorney can sometimes get a tenant ejected within weeks!

If a landlord uses the “failure to vacate” method of eviction, he must give the tenant ten (10) days written notice. This method of eviction applies only to non-payment of rent. If the tenant does not leave the premises within ten (10) days, he can be charged with a misdemeanor. The tenant would then be required to appear in court where he could be fined up to $25.00 for each day the tenant remained in the dwelling after being served with the ten (10) day notice to vacate. This method is typically not preferred by landlords, because the process can take several months during which the landlord continues to lose rental income. The other huge problem with this method is that the criminal penalty for not vacating is a fine NOT eviction.

A landlord is not permitted to exercise “self-help” methods to evict a tenant. The landlord may not change the locks on the tenant’s doors, move the tenant’s furniture out, turn off the tenant’s utilities or use any other form of harassment to persuade the tenant to move out.

Additionally, Arkansas landlord/tenant law states that upon the voluntary or involuntary termination of any lease agreement, all property left in the dwelling by the tenant will be considered abandoned, and may be disposed of by the landlord as the landlord sees fit and without recourse by the tenant. All property left on the premises by the tenant is subjected to a lien in favor of the landlord for the payment of all sums agreed to be paid by the tenant.