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AR Lawmakers Consider Rental Housing Standards Bill

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Arkansas consistently ranks low as a place to live in the United States, because of its lack of renter protections. (Adobe Stock)
Arkansas consistently ranks low as a place to live in the United States, because of its lack of renter protections. (Adobe Stock)
 By Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - AR - Producer, Contact
March 2, 2021

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- State lawmakers are considering legislation that would require landlords to provide and maintain safe, habitable housing, and would also overhaul the state's eviction procedures for the one-third of Arkansas residents who are renters.

The measure, House Bill 1563, was introduced by Rep. Jimmy Gazaway, R-Paragould.

Lynn Foster, professor emerita at the University of Arkansas William H. Bowen School of Law, said Arkansas is the only state in the nation lacking implied warranty of habitability laws, meaning tenants have little recourse when it comes to housing issues that affect their health and safety.

"Renting houses is a business, just like making food for grocery stores or selling cars," Foster explained. "And government regulates those businesses, and what we're asking for here is just a minimal regulation of rental housing."

One 2017 study linked housing complaints to the prevalence of respiratory-related illnesses and increased hospital admissions among Little Rock residents.

The proposed bill would require landlords to install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, working plumbing and heating, and control mold growth, among other measures.

Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's eviction moratorium, it's estimated thousands of eviction cases have been filed statewide since the start of the pandemic.

Foster noted the bill also would help streamline eviction procedures.

"Right now we have a strange patchwork quilt of three different eviction procedures that are used," Foster confirmed. "Only one is used in all parts of the state, and it is more expensive and can take much more time."

She pointed out in 2007, state lawmakers enacted what she said are a series of pro-landlord provisions.

"So what this bill actually does is, it fills in those gaps, and makes our very unbalanced law much more balanced and fair," Foster concluded.

Foster added statewide organizations, including AARP, Arkansas Renters United, and Americans for Prosperity have voiced their support for the legislation.

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