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Evicting a Tenant under ARLTA

evictedIf you have tenants, there will eventually come a time when you can’t get them out. We reviewed the tenant’s obligations and the landlord’s obligations as well, a couple weeks ago. So what happens when the tenant doesn’t live up to them?

If we are dealing with residential properties, which I assume most readers are, we are back to the Arkansas Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (ARLTA). This assumes we have actual grounds for removal, such as expiration of the lease or violation of the lease terms. If so, this is the process:

1. The first step is filing of an affidavit with the Circuit Clerk by the landlord stating the grounds for eviction, coupled with a $25 filing fee. The court shall then issue an order requiring the tenant to answer within 10 days why they should not be evicted. I would expect you’ll have to prepare the order and take it to the judge to get him to move quickly on it.

2. You have to serve that order on the tenant, and here the statute is a little unclear because it says “in the manner as provided by law” for other civil actions. It then becomes somewhat contradictory but appears to say if you try and serve them at home via process server and they are not there, you can affix it to a “conspicuous place” (presumably the door) and mail a notice via regular mail.

3. If the tenant fails to respond within 10 days of service, you can get a writ of eviction (which you’ll have to draft) directing the sheriff to remove them. If they file an answer, you get a court date “like any other civil case”, which is who knows when. If the landlord wins at trial, he gets a writ evicting the tenant within three days. If he loses, the tenant stays until he does breach or the lease ends on its terms.  These steps are codified in Arkansas law as sections 18-17-901 to 18-17-906.  

Couple of thoughts on this. First, I’m not so sure this is an improvement over the existing unlawful detainer (eviction) process, at least if the tenant intends to fight it. Under that process, which I’ll detail in a subsequent post, if they object to the initial filing you get a hearing within five days, rather than having to wait for a typical trial setting. Second, I’m not so sure that the manner of service is sufficient.

However, the truth is the vast majority of the time, the tenant leaves as soon as they get served with the initial notice, particularly if it mentions the sheriff coming. Rarely do they want to spend the money to hire a lawyer to fight it, much less appeal a decision against them. Assuming they’re going to leave anyway, and that you don’t expect to collect past due rent or money for damages from them, this process probably saves you $200 in filing fees and service costs from the traditional way.

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