City Director Ken Richardson has sent me a revision by City Attorney Tom Carpenter of a resolution he hopes to bring before the Little Rock City Board tonight to urge landlords to cease evictions until a substantial decrease in unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
When I first mentioned his idea, Richardson acknowledged the resolution is without legal impact, but still worthy encouragement. I don’t disagree.
But …. I’m afraid this train has left the station.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson refuses, as some states have done, to impose an eviction moratorium. He will not change his mind.
Worse, landlords are moving expeditiously to oust rental tenants for nonpayment. Lynn Foster, the UA Little Rock law professor who’s done long work on landlord-tenant issues in landlord-controlled Arkansas, says monthly reporting continues to show robust use of various legal methods to toss renters out of dwellings, including Arkansas’s one-of-a-kind criminal eviction statute.
She’s also discovered a landlord-exploited loophole in the federal law. She writes:
Even though the CARES Act prevents evictions of people in properties subject to mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac that have one to three rental units, none of the databases contain these properties. So basically, landlords can evict these tenants, because the tenant would have to have a title search done to find out whether their unit was protected by CARES.
Foster thinks it’s time to move beyond an eviction moratorium to providing emergency rent funds. She says 30 states are providing money through the CARES Act, general state funds or block grant money. She asks: “What’s wrong with Arkansas?”
The answer: A fish rots at its head.
This is, however, one of those subsidy programs that would be good not only for the working (or currently non-working) stiff but also for the landlord. Call the chamber of commerce.