In order to successfully evict a tenant, landlords in Arkansas must strictly follow state and local law. Here are the basic rules and procedures regarding evictions in Arkansas.
Notice of Termination for Cause
If a landlord wants to evict a tenant before the tenant's lease has expired, the landlord must have legal cause. In Arkansas, legal cause includes failing to pay rent, violating the lease or rental agreement, failing to maintain a safe rental, or committing certain illegal acts.
Before a landlord can file an eviction lawsuit (called an "unlawful detainer" suit in Arkansas), the landlord must terminate the tenancy—this means that the landlord must give the tenant written notice that the tenancy is ending. Different types of notice are required depending on the reason for the eviction.
- Failure to Pay Rent: Arkansas landlords have two options when evicting a tenant for failure to pay rent. The landlord can begin either unlawful detainer action or a criminal eviction (called "failure to vacate"). These two different methods require different types of notice.
- Unlawful Detainer Method (civil eviction): When an Arkansas tenant fails to pay rent on the due date, the landlord must wait five days. If the rent isn't paid within five days of the due date, the landlord has the right to terminate the tenancy by giving the tenant an unconditional notice to quit (move out). (Ark. Code Ann. § 18-17-901 (2021).) With an unconditional notice to quit, the tenant doesn't have a second chance to pay the rent—the only option is to move out or face eviction. The unconditional notice to quit must give the tenant three days to leave. If the tenant doesn't leave after the three days have passed, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer suit. (Ark. Code Ann. § 18-60-304(3) (2021).) Civil evictions are used far more often than the criminal eviction method discussed below.
- Failure to Vacate Method (criminal eviction): If the tenant fails to pay rent on the due date, the landlord can pursue criminal charges against the tenant. The landlord must give the tenant a 10 days' notice in writing to leave the rental. If the tenant doesn't leave during this time, the tenant is guilty of a misdemeanor. If the tenant is convicted, the court can fine the tenant no more than $25 for each day the tenant remains in the rental after the notice has expired. (Ark. Code Ann. § 18-16-101 (2021).)
- Violation of the Lease or Rental Agreement: When an Arkansas tenant violates a term of the lease—such as having a pet in violation of a no-pets policy—the landlord must give the tenant a 14-day notice to cure (fix the problem) or quit (move out). If the tenant does not fix the problem or move out within those 14 days, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer lawsuit. (Ark. Code Ann. § 18-17-701(a) (2021).)
- Failure to maintain a safe, healthy, or habitable rental: If a tenant causes a rental to become unsafe or uninhabitable—for example, by removing the hot water heater or allowing trash to accumulate in the unit—and the condition can be fixed, the landlord must give the tenant a 14 days' written notice to fix the situation. If the tenant doesn't fix it, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer suit. (Ark. Code Ann. § 18-17-702 (2021).) If the situation is one that can't be repaired, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer suit immediately. (Ark. Code Ann. § 18-60-304(4) (2021).)
- Criminal Actions: The landlord can also evict the tenant for committing certain criminal acts at the rental unit. These acts include illegal gambling, prostitution, and the illegal sale of alcohol. In this situation, the landlord can immediately file an unlawful detainer lawsuit. (Ark. Code Ann. § 18-60-304(5) (2021).)
Notice of Termination Without Cause
If the landlord wants to end a fixed-term lease but does not have legal cause to evict the tenant, then the landlord will have to wait until the lease has expired before expecting the tenant to move. The landlord does not need to give the tenant written notice to move unless the terms of the lease specifically require the landlord to do so.
If the landlord wants to end a month-to-month tenancy but does not have legal cause to evict the tenant, then the landlord can give the tenant a written 30-day notice to vacate. This notice will inform the tenant that the tenancy will terminate in 30 days and the tenant must move out of the rental unit by that time. If the tenant does not move out by that time, then the landlord can file an unlawful detainer lawsuit. (Ark. Code Ann. § 18-17-704 (2021).)
Tenant Eviction Defenses
Even though a landlord has a valid legal reason to evict a tenant, the tenant might still decide to fight the eviction. The tenant could have a valid legal defense, such as the landlord failing to maintain the premises of the rental unit or the landlord discriminating against the tenant. The tenant's decision to fight the eviction could increase the costs of the eviction lawsuit and allow the tenant more time to remain living in the rental unit. Tenant Defenses to Evictions in Arkansas has more information on this subject.
Removal of the Tenant
The only way a landlord can remove a tenant from a rental unit is by winning an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. The landlord must never try to force the tenant to move out of the rental unit. Even after the landlord wins the eviction lawsuit, the tenant can only be removed by a law enforcement officer with a court order. If the landlord tries to illegally force the tenant to move out of the rental unit, the tenant can sue the landlord for damages.
After the tenant has been evicted, the landlord might find that the tenant has left behind personal property. In Arkansas, this property is considered abandoned, and the landlord can immediately dispose of it. The landlord is not required to contact the tenant or hold onto the property for any length of time before disposing of it. (Ark. Code Ann. § 18-16-108 (2021).)