In Arkansas, you can be evicted for a number of different reasons, including not paying rent or violating the lease. However, there may be a few things you can do to postpone the eviction, or perhaps even stop it altogether.
If your landlord decides to evict you, you will first receive a written notice that states the reason for the eviction and a time period to either comply with the notice, if possible, or move out of the rental unit. In Arkansas, you could typically receive one of four types of eviction notices, depending on the reason for the eviction:
It is important to note that you are not automatically evicted when the time period runs out. An eviction is a legal proceeding. If you did not comply with the eviction notice by the time the notice period ends, your landlord can then go to court and file the necessary paperwork to begin the eviction lawsuit against you. Depending on how busy the courts are, it could take anywhere from a week to months before a sheriff is ordered to evict you on a certain date. You can remain living in the rental unit until the sheriff is ordered to evict you, but remember that you will be required to pay the landlord rent until the day you move out of the unit.
Also, keep in mind that there are negative consequences to being evicted, other than losing your home. An eviction will have a negative impact on your credit report, and it could affect your prospects for future housing. Some landlords will not rent to people who have been evicted from a previous location.
For more information on the eviction process in Arkansas, see The Eviction Process in Arkansas. Also, if you are being evicted because the rental property is being foreclosed, see the Nolo article Rights of Renters in Foreclosure.
If you are considering filing for bankruptcy to stop your eviction, you should look at Evictions and the Automatic Stay in Bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy may not stop an eviction, and you should carefully consider your options before doing so.
If you receive an eviction notice, you should first try talking to your landlord. You may be able to come to an agreement without going to court. An eviction will cost both of you money (as well as time), and your landlord may be willing to stop the eviction if you agree to certain terms, such as paying rent you owe or stopping behavior that violates the lease. If you can't come to an agreement that prevents you from moving out, perhaps you can agree on a certain date and time for when you will move out of the rental unit.
If you and the landlord are able to agree on anything, be sure to get the agreement in writing, signed and dated by both of you.
If you are being evicted for violating the lease, then your eviction notice will state the reason for the eviction. If you comply with the eviction notice by correcting the lease violation, then, in Arkansas, the landlord must not proceed with the eviction (see Ark. Code Ann. § 18-17-701).
If you are not able to comply with the eviction notice within the time period stated in the notice, then you should talk to your landlord. For example, if you are being evicted for violating the lease, you will receive a 14-day notice to remedy or quit. If you can't fix the violation within 14 days but you could by the end of the month, you should talk to your landlord to see if you can have more time. If your landlord agrees to terms that are different from the eviction notice, then you should get the agreement in writing.
If you do not comply with the eviction notice and you and your landlord are not able to reach an agreement, then your landlord can file an eviction lawsuit with the court. In Arkansas, the landlord has the choice of filing this lawsuit with the civil court or the criminal court. You will receive a copy of the paperwork after your landlord files. You need to review this paperwork very carefully. The paperwork will let you know whether this is a civil suit or a criminal suit and therefore what steps you must take next. You will likely need to file paperwork of your own, such as an objection or an answer, with the court before a hearing is scheduled. An objection, or answer, is a document that allows you to state the reasons why you should not be evicted. This is where you need to put any defenses to the eviction, such as the landlord using "self-help" procedures to evict you. In Arkansas, it is illegal for a landlord to shut off your utilities or change the locks on your doors in an effort to force you to move out of the rental unit (see Ark. Code Ann. § 18-60-302). This is often referred to as a "self-help" eviction, and you may be able to use this as a defense against your eviction. For more ideas on possible defenses against an eviction, see Tenant Defenses to Evictions in Arkansas. You should also contact a lawyer to ensure you are using the best defenses available to you.
After you file your paperwork with the court, a hearing will be scheduled. At this hearing, the judge will listen to both you and the landlord and make a decision regarding the eviction. If you do not file the appropriate paperwork or do not attend this hearing, then the judge will most likely rule against you. This means you will be evicted. For more information on the eviction process, see What You Should Know About Landlord/Tenant Rights, published by the Office of the Attorney General for Arkansas.
Even if you don't have any defenses against the eviction, you should still attend the hearing and talk to the judge. Depending on your circumstances (such as if you have minor children living at home or health issues), the judge might not schedule the eviction right away. The judge might give you a little extra time to prepare and move out of the rental unit before ordering a sheriff to perform the eviction. Keep in mind, though, that you will still owe your landlord rent until you move out of the rental unit.