Evictions

Updated February 2017   Fact Sheet PDF


Introduction

An eviction is a legal process that allows a landlord to request a court’s permission to have law enforcement remove a tenant from a residence. The most common type of eviction in Arkansas is called “unlawful detainer.” Unlawful detainer is a civil lawsuit in which the landlord asks the court to evict a tenant.

 

Circumstances

A tenant may be evicted for violating any obligation in his or her lease. Common violations include failure to pay rent when due, causing damage to the dwelling, unauthorized persons living at the dwelling, and criminal activity. A tenant may also be evicted if they continue to live in the dwelling after the lease period has ended.

 

Lease Termination

Lease termination is the first step in the eviction process. It means that the lease contract between the landlord and tenant has ended. Leases terminate naturally at the end of the lease period (one year in many cases). A landlord may terminate a tenant’s lease early for a violation of the lease.

 

At the end of the lease period, both the landlord and the tenant have the choice whether to renew the lease. A landlord may choose not to renew the lease for any reason except for discriminatory reasons protected under the Fair Housing Act. Discriminatory reasons include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.   

 

The Process

The “unlawful detainer” process begins when the landlord gives the tenant a written eviction notice stating that the lease has been terminated. For non-payment of rent, this notice must give the tenant at least three days to vacate. For all other lease violations, the notice period should be at least 14 days. For termination of a month-to-month lease (absent some other lease violation), the notice period must be at least one month.

 

If the tenant stays in the dwelling beyond the time given in the notice, then the landlord is allowed to file a lawsuit for unlawful detainer. The tenant must receive proper service of a summons and complaint through either a process server or certified mail.

 

Being Served

Contact an attorney immediately if you are served.. You only have 5 days from the date that you received the lawsuit to file a proper response with the circuit court clerk. If you do not file a response, the clerk will issue the order that allows law enforcement to evict you. If you do file a response, the matter will be set for a hearing before a judge. The number for Arkansas legal services, which is through either the Center for Arkansas Legal Services or Legal Aid of Arkansas, Inc., is 1-800-9-LAW-AID 1-800-952-9243.

 

Your Belongings

Your best bet is to take them with you. If law enforcement has to evict you, any belongings that you cannot take with you will be removed and stored at your expense. If you move prior to law enforcement’s involvement and leave your belongings in the dwelling, your landlord will be able to consider the property abandoned and throw away or sell your items.

 

A Court Order

A landlord cannot throw you out without a court order. A landlord may not use any “self-help” method of eviction. Changing the locks, removing the doors or windows, terminating utility services, and making threats are all illegal methods of eviction. If your landlord does or threatens any of these illegal actions, contact an attorney and your local police department immediately.

 

Falling Behind on Rent

You can be charged with a crime for falling behind on rent. This charge is called “failure to vacate.” It is a separate legal process from “unlawful detainer.” Please see the Failure to Vacate fact sheet for more information.

 

This fact sheet is a collaboration of the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas, Inc. These nonprofit organizations provide free legal assistance to eligible Arkansans who meet income, asset, and other guidelines. Legal assistance may also include advice and counsel, brief services, or full representation depending on the situation. For more information about civil legal aid in Arkansas, please visit arlegalservices.org. For information specific to Legal Aid of Arkansas, Inc., visit arlegalaid.org. Apply for services online or by calling 1-800-9-LAW-AID (1-800-952-9243).
The information and statements of law in this fact sheet should not be considered legal advice. This fact sheet is provided as a broad guide to help you understand how certain legal matters are handled in general. Courts may interpret the law differently. Before you take action, talk to an attorney and follow his or her advice. Always do what the court tells you to do.
Content provided by: Legal Aid of Arkansas, Inc.

 

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