Whether renting to someone or from someone, it is a good idea to have a written lease. A well written lease will clearly set out the rights and responsibilities of both the tenant and landlord. The lease will let the tenant know what to expect from the landlord (e.g. a quiet place to live) and what the landlord expects from the tenant in return (e.g. pay rent on time). A properly drafted lease will also let a tenant know the specific consequences for violating one or more of the lease terms (e.g. eviction). A lease, when properly drafted, should bring peace of mind to both the landlord and tenant by taking away uncertainty and guess work.
It is also good for both landlord and tenant to know the local, state and federal laws that apply to rental property in the area. This will let both landlord and tenant know what can and cannot be included in the lease and what protections and obligations both landlord and tenant have beyond the lease. For example, in Arkansas there is no statewide requirement that landlords maintain their rental properties. However, some cities have passed local ordinances that require rental property be kept in a certain condition. Also, if receiving federally subsidized rental assistance (such as Section 8 Housing) landlords must maintain the subsidized property at HUD approved standards.
Finally, if a tenant violates the lease to the point the landlord feels eviction is the best course of action, both landlord and tenant need to know the steps of the eviction process. Arkansas does not allow a landlord to use “self-help” by changing locks or removing doors. Evictions must be handled through the courts. Usually this will involve first a notice to the tenant that the lease has been violated and that they must move. If a tenant refuses to move after receiving notice, then the landlord will need to file a lawsuit against the tenant to have the tenant removed. The tenant will be served with the lawsuit and have a chance to respond. If the tenant contests the eviction, then a hearing will be scheduled and a judge will decide whether the tenant can be evicted and what damages, if any, are owed.
If you need assistance in drafting or reviewing a lease, or in understanding local, state, or federal landlord-tenant laws (including the federal Fair Housing Act or HUD laws and regulations), or if you need assistance with an eviction, we’re here to help. Give us a call or contact us here to schedule a free consultation. For more information on landlord-tenant law, check out our Law Blog and FAQ pages on this website.