This is the lead story on the Arkansas Times website currently: A collaboration between ProPublica and the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network (now shepherded by former Times writer Benji Hardy) on the embarrassing state of landlord-tenant law in Arkansas.
I repost it here to be sure no one misses it. Though I now see someone else also had the same bright idea.
We are the last state in the land with a criminal eviction statute because the powerful real estate lobby insists. People can wind up in jail for the inability to pay rent. From the article:
In Mena, Jocelyn Mailly, 66, feared jail so much she went to court for her failure-to-vacate hearing in August despite having a fever and a presumptive positive coronavirus diagnosis. She had fallen behind on her monthly mobile home dues in June.
Evictions in the state can snowball from charges to warrants to arrests to jail time. The evicted, who research shows are disproportionately female, Black and low-income, are then saddled with a permanent criminal record, making it harder to find a new place to live or a job.
Around the country, leaders have paused evictions altogether as the pandemic has thrown millions of people out of work. In Arkansas, however, COVID-19 has not deterred criminal eviction cases. Since mid-March, more than 200 new failure to vacate cases have been filed statewide, according to online records and a survey of 28 district courts in the state’s largest communities by ProPublica and the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network. At least seven women were detained or sentenced to jail for not appearing in court.
The governor has refused to expand renters’ protection under his emergency powers during the pandemic. The state has provided only a pittance of rental assistance money, which would help BOTH tenants and landlords.
Arkansas is no country for poor people. Business? It’s so favorable to them the state government is spending your tax dollars to advertise it elsewhere as a place good for business — favorable taxes, protection from lawsuit, no quarter given to the needy.
The ProPublica article also comes with a related piece on what to do if your landlord is about to kick you out.