Legal FAQs for Renters in
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Do I have housing protections because of COVID-19?
My landlord gave me an eviction notice
What can I do?
I've been sued in court for eviction
What can I do?
Do I have housing protections because of COVID-19?
- Are there any special protections for renters in Arkansas during the COVID-19 emergency?
There are no statewide Arkansas protections against eviction for renters during the emergency, but renters do have some additional protections in court and against utility shutoffs.
There are a few special policies that may protect renters. Landlords who file an eviction case have to plead that the home in question is not covered by the CARES Act's eviction protections.
Also, the Arkansas Public Service Commission has ordered that all residents' electric, gas, and water utilities cannot be shut off during the emergency period.
Check with your local government to see if they provide any additional local protections.
Arkansas renters may have U.S. national protections against eviction that last through June 30, 2021. Check here below to see if you are eligible for them.
- What do the protections mean for Arkansas renters?
The protections means that during COVID-19 in Arkansas:
- Your landlord can still give you a notice to quit.
- Your landlord can still file an eviction claim in court against you, if your landlord shows that the property is not covered by the CARES Act.
- Hearings on eviction may still happen (depending on your local court), and the court may still hear an eviction case against you.
- The court may issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you.
- An existing eviction order may be enforced against you, to remove you from your home.
- Your utilities may not be shut off, even if you do not pay your utility bills.
You may have U.S. national protections against eviction that last through June 30, 2021. Check here below to see if you are eligible for them.
- Do I still have to pay rent during the COVID-19 emergency?
Yes, Arkansas renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.
Also check with your local city or county government to see if they give renters any additional protections if they are struggling to pay rent during the emergency.
If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:
- Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain why you cannot pay the rent because of COVID-19 impact. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. You can also use this letter-writing tool here.
- Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
- Keep proof of COVID-19's impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
- Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help. Get financial and legal help.
- Can my landlord evict me during the COVID-19 emergency?
Arkansas renters may be evicted from their home during the emergency.
There are no statewide protections to stop landlords from giving tenants notices to quit, filing eviction lawsuits with the court, or having the eviction orders enforced.
You may be covered by national protections, that last through June 30, 2021. Read below to see if you are eligible for U.S. national protections.
Also check with your local government to see if they provide any additional local protections.
If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.
- Can my utilities be shut off during the COVID-19 emergency?
During the emergency, Arkansas renters are protected from utility shutoffs if they cannot pay their utility bills.
The Arkansas Public Service Commission ordered that utility companies not disconnect any customers based on their non-payment of bills.
Renters must still pay their utility bills. If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.
Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.
- Are you eligible for eviction protections under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
What is the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium orders that renters should be protected from eviction if they are unable to pay their rent due to hardships like job loss, income loss, or medical expenses. This protection lasts from September 4, 2020 through June 30, 2021.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium is not automatic protection against eviction. Renters need to fill in a Declaration document and give it to their landlord to get the protection.
Landlords may still try to file an eviction lawsuit against renters, but renters can use the moratorium to defend themselves in court.
Do you qualify for protection under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium applies to people who:
- Rent a home in the United States; AND
- Make less than $99,000 (or $198,000 if you file a joint tax return); AND
- Are facing eviction based on nonpayment of rent (not for other problems, like lease violations or criminal activity); AND
- Can show they’re unable to pay rent because they’ve had a financial hardship, like losing a job, decrease in income, or medical bills; AND
- Can show that they’ve been trying their hardest to pay their rent and find any rental assistance; AND
- Can show that they’re at risk of homelessness if they were to be evicted.
If you live in a state, county, or city that has an eviction moratorium, the CDC Eviction Moratorium doesn’t replace this local one. It adds on top of your local protections.
What does the CDC Eviction Moratorium get you?
The CDC Eviction moratorium can stop an eviction proceeding against you. It could stop your landlord from removing you from your home, or from a court giving your landlord an eviction order through June 30, 2021.
- If your landlord has already started an eviction lawsuit against you, you can use the CDC Eviction Moratorium as a defense in court.
- You can use the Declaration form to tell your landlord that you are protected from eviction, and to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- You must follow the process below to be protected by the CDC Eviction Moratorium.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium does NOT get you rent relief:
- Even if you fill in the Declaration, this does not cancel rent that you owe, or stop rent or late fees from building up.
- After the CDC Moratorium expires on June 30, 2021, you may be evicted for the rent that you owe.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium may NOT stop a landlord from suing you:
- Even after you fill in the Declaration and send it to your landlord, they might still file an eviction lawsuit against you.
- You can bring the Declaration to the court eviction hearing, to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- Call a local lawyer for help if your landlord sues you for eviction.
How do you use the CDC Eviction Moratorium to protect yourself?
To secure CDC Eviction Moratorium protection, follow these steps:
- Apply for rental assistance. Look for any rental and utility assistance in your area, and submit applications to these programs. Find local assistance programs here.
- Fill out Declarations. You and every adult in the household need to fill out a Declaration about your financial hardships and your attempts to get assistance. In the Declaration, you must say that you are telling the truth and that you may face legal consequences if you are lying. You can use this guide for help with the Declaration.
- Send the Declarations to your landlord, and also tell the landlord that you will do your best to pay when you can. Keep a copy of the Declarations, as well as any receipt or documentation that you have sent it to your landlord (like email receipt or screenshots of the message). These can be useful evidence that you followed the process correctly.
- Protections through June 30st. After you send this, your landlord cannot remove you from your home for nonpayment of rent through June 30, 2021. They are also never allowed to harass or intimidate you, or force you to leave the home without a court order.
- If your landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against you, you can bring your Declarations to the court to ask them to stop the lawsuit. Contact a legal aid lawyer to help you with the lawsuit. Please note: Your landlord can still evict you for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, like for engaging in criminal activity in the home, violating building codes or health ordinances, or threatening the health and safety of other residents.
- You will continue to owe your rent. Try to make a plan about how you will take care of all the rent you owe. At the end of the Eviction Moratorium protections on June 30, 2021, you will no longer be protected from being evicted.
- Make sure you know your lease and its terms. Some landlords may try to evict you based on violations of the terms in your lease. If you know your lease, you can protect yourself by making sure you do not break any of its terms.
If your landlord is trying to evict you, you should contact a legal aid attorney who helps with evictions. The CDC Eviction Moratorium might give you protections that lawyers can help you with.
What if I need repairs during the COVID-19 emergency?
Can I break my lease during the COVID-19 emergency?
What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me during the COVID-19 emergency?
Are eviction cases still proceeding through Arkansas courts?
My landlord gave me an eviction notice
- My landlord gave me a notice to "pay or quit" my rental home in Arkansas. What should I do?
You do not have to leave your home yet.
Arkansas has two civil eviction processes as well as a failure to vacate or “criminal eviction” procedure. In every case, the tenant must get written notice of any eviction case filed in court and a chance to respond before they actually have to move.
Most evictions are “unlawful detainer” cases filed in Circuit Court. In those cases, tenants are served with a 3-day notice to vacate. This is an official notice that your landlord may bring you to court to evict you for not paying your rent (or other reasons). This official notice must follow some rules to be valid. If it doesn't follow these rules, then you can challenge it and stop an eviction.
These are the Arkansas requirements for an eviction notice:
- The notice must be written down.
- It has to have your full name and address.
- It must explain why you may be evicted -- whether it is for non-payment of rent, a lease violation, or other reason.
For a 3-day Notice to Pay or Quit,
- It has to have everything above and say exactly how much rent you owe.
- It must include a statement informing you that failure to pay the rent or vacate will result in an eviction lawsuit in civil court.
In some cases, landlords will file eviction cases in district court without ever giving the tenant an eviction notice beforehand. In those cases, the tenants must be served with written notice of the case and a court date where they can appear and respond. This is unusual outside of Sebastian, Crawford, Craighead, Jefferson, and Pope counties.
In Arkansas, you can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor if you do not move within 10 days of getting a 10-day notice to vacate for nonpayment of rent.
- What if the landlord has just told me, face-to-face or over the phone, that I need to leave my home in Arkansas?
A verbal conversation doesn't count as an "eviction notice". To be legal, the notice must be written down and given to you in the correct way.
Reach out for legal help if your landlord is trying to make you leave without going through the court process. This is illegal and a lawyer may be able to help you protect yourself.
- Do I have to leave my home by the time of the eviction notice's expiration date in Arkansas?
No, you do not have to leave (or 'quit') your home by the date listed on the eviction notice.
You do not have to leave your home until you have been brought to court, and a judge has ordered that your landlord can make you leave.
After the date on the eviction notice passes, then your landlord may file an eviction lawsuit in court against you. You will be able to go to court and present defenses to protect yourself.
My eviction notice says that I will be evicted unless I pay back-rent I owe in Arkansas. What if I can't afford to pay it?
How long do I have after I receive an eviction notice to pay back the rent to stop the eviction?
I've been sued in court for eviction
- My landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against me in court in Arkansas. What should I do?
You should make sure that the landlord properly 'served' you with the lawsuit. If they didn't give it to you in the correct way, you can challenge the eviction lawsuit. Service is complicated. If you do not believe you were served property, you should speak to your local legal aid program for further assistance.
Arkansas has multiple eviction methods with different rules about service. Most cases are “unlawful detainer” cases filed in circuit court. In those cases, a landlord must follow certain rules to let you know about the lawsuit:
- Only certain people can give you the lawsuit's Summons and Complaint. The landlord can not give you these papers - it has to be a person not involved in the case. This can be the sheriff, deputy, a process server, or any person over 18.
- These people can deliver the papers in a few different ways. They can attempt to deliver the notice to you in person or leave it with someone in your household that is 14 or older.
- They can also first mail you a copy.
- If they can not reach you, they can try another reasonable method, if approved by a judge.
In rare cases, a sheriff’s deputy may serve a tenant with an eviction lawsuit by taping court paperwork to the tenant’s door. This only applies to evictions in district court, not circuit court. Although Arkansas has a law that allows this, it may violate other federal laws. You may need an attorney if you were served this way.
You should also reach out to local lawyers who can help you prepare for your court hearing so you can protect yourself against the eviction.
- Do I have to do anything after I get an eviction Summons and Complaint in Arkansas?
In Arkansas, you are required to respond to the eviction lawsuit, if you want to avoid the eviction.
Circuit Court Evictions:
In most cases (called “unlawful detainer” cases filed in Circuit Court), you have to file an Objection within 5 days (excluding Sundays and holidays) and pay whatever amount of rent the landlord alleges to be due into a court registry. If you do not do this by the 5th day, you may lose your case and the court may give your landlord permission to remove you from your home after 24 hours without you ever going to court. However, most courts do not enforce the requirement to pay rent into the registry at that stage of the case.
District Court Evictions:
In some eviction cases filed in district court, the court sets the case for a hearing within 10 days. You should know if you have that kind of case because you will already have a court date in district court. Tenants do not have to file anything with the court in those cases. However, the Judge will probably order them to move within 24 hours if they do not come to court. These cases are rare outside of Sebastian, Crawford, Craighead, Jefferson, and Pope counties.
Reach out to legal help to learn what your rights and defenses are in your eviction case. These organizations can help you deal with this lawsuit.
- Can I settle my eviction case without going to court in Arkansas?
You can come to an agreement with your landlord, but you should still go to court to make sure your case is closed.
You can work with your landlord to work out an agreement before the date of the court hearing. This might be a payment plan or other agreement on what needs to happen for you to stay in your home.
Be sure to get this agreement in writing, so that you can prove it exists and that your landlord follows through on it.
Also, you should still go to court for your hearing date, to make sure the court knows about the agreement and closes the lawsuit. If you do not go to court, the lawsuit might still continue and the judge might rule that the landlord can remove you. Go to court yourself to make sure this doesn't happen.
You can reach out for legal help to get assistance in negotiating an agreement with your landlord, and making sure this agreement is being followed.
Its information is taken from these sources:Arkansas Supreme Court OrderArkansas Public Service Commission order on utility shutoffsArkansas Legal Services OnlinePrinceton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect Tracker