A significant number of Arkansas consumers choose to rent their residences rather than own property, and with that decision comes a unique set of rights and obligations for those who are tenants and landlords.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, renter-occupied dwellings make up more than 32 percent of the residences in Arkansas. Tenants and landlords often ask the Attorney General’s Office about their responsibilities under the law. Therefore, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert to focus on landlord-tenant issues.
“My office fields dozens of calls a month from both landlords and tenants who have questions about their protections under state law,” McDaniel said. “Generally, we recommend that parties enter into a binding, written lease agreement that stipulates the terms and conditions of the leasing period.”
McDaniel noted that Arkansas laws that cover residential tenants and landlords apply only to private rental units and not government-subsidized housing.
The state’s security-deposit law protects consumers from being required to pay security deposits in excess of what would be two months’ rent. For instance, a tenant paying $800 per month cannot be charged a security deposit of more than $1,600. The deposit must be returned within 60 days of moving, but landlords may deduct the cost of any damages or past-due rent. The law applies only to landlords who rent six or more dwellings.
Tenants who rent houses or apartments often agree to accept the dwelling “as is,” which means that the landlord is not required to provide additional maintenance to the dwelling. If a tenant wants the landlord to be responsible for maintenance, the tenant should ask the landlord to agree in writing to provide it. Also, tenants who believe that maintenance necessary for their health and safety has not occurred should contact their local code enforcement authorities to determine whether the dwelling fully complies with building codes.
A landlord can terminate a lease at any time if the tenant violates any provision of the lease, including failing to pay rent. State law provides the landlord with a procedure to evict the tenant and reclaim possession of the premises.
McDaniel said tenants should know that landlords are required to provide notice at least one rental period — typically a month — in advance of an increase in rent, and that notice applies to both written and oral leases. Tenants who plan to move must give notice according to the provisions of their leases. In addition, tenants are generally obligated to obtain prior approval from landlords before subleasing an apartment or house.
When terminating the lease for reasons not based on the tenant’s violation of terms of the lease, landlords are required to give notice of at least one rental period in an oral lease, or they must abide by the terms of a written lease. It’s important for both tenants and landlords to know that landlords may give notice of lease termination for any reason, and even model tenants are subject to having a lease terminated. Tenants who wish to avoid this at-will termination by the landlord should ask for a long-term written lease.
The federal Fair Housing Act protects most tenants from being discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, disability, familial status or national origin. For more information about fair housing, contact the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (www.hud.gov) or the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission (www.fairhousing.arkansas.gov).
For more information about landlord and tenant rights in Arkansas, or for other consumer-related topics, visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org or call (800) 482-8982.