Our View

Our View

No rights for renters — at least for now

For all you renters out there, many of whom have fought with your landlords over leaking roofs, broken faucets, entrance doors that won’t shut or lock, you’ll be happy to know there is a crusader in Little Rock on your side who wants an enforceable law that sets basic standards by which every property owner must follow.

We were somewhat surprised to learn that Arkansas is the only state that does not require landlords to maintain a safe structure for renters, leaving some people with no other choice but to live in uninhabitable and unsafe conditions.

So seems Rep. Jim Gazaway, R-Paragould, thinks it is high time that Arkansas have a set of rules and regulations landlords must abide by and it seems only right for lawmakers to seriously consider supporting this endeavor. If lawmakers do approve Gazaway’s measure it would mean landlords would have to comply with the health provisions of housing codes, which would include they address the issue within a two week period. If a repair is not being made, then the tenant can ask the lease to be terminated without penalty.

But, in many cases these tenants have no other place to go and terminating a lease may only make matters worse. With that said, maybe there could be a provision in this bill that would include some type of mandatory clause that sets specific fines and penalties.

For some strange reason this isn’t the first time that such a measure has been brought up for consideration by our lawmakers and no action has been taken. We would suggest that the political pressure from Realtors and the influential property owners of major apartment complexes and rental property has kept politicians from taking up for the people who can’t afford to purchase a home and are forced into renting.

In fact, this is at least the fourth time a bill like it has gone through the legislative process and getting nowhere. Lynn Foster, an Arkansas Bar Foundation Professor at the UALR William H. Brown School of Law said beginning in the 1970s bills that would impose what lawyers call an implied warranty of habitability began to be filed in the Arkansas Legislature. And, she said, since 2013, one has been filled in every legislative session and ;this is now the fourth session.

The way the bill has been explained to the press and if passed, landlords would be responsible for making sure things like a roof does not leak, exterior doors work property and even fire alarms work correctly.

Right now, landlords do not technically have to fix any of these issues and in many cases they don’t.

While we can certainly all agree the majority of landlords maintain their properties and most often respond in a timely manner when a tenant files a legitimate complaint. But, with that said, there are others who could be clearly described as “slum lords” who have property they rent to low-income individuals and families who find themselves trapped in a bad situation they can’t readily get out of.

These type landlords need to be held accountable for their inaction and while this proposed bill sponsored by Gazaway should be passed we hope that it also includes serious penalties.