The Worst Renter Laws in the Nation
It's no secret that Arkansas has the worst landlord-tenant laws in the nation. It is the only state in the US where tenants are treated as criminals for paying rent late. Every other state in the nation handles this matter in civil court. For too long, it was also the only state in the US where landlords were not required by law to maintain their properties. Most landlords do the right thing, but for the few who don't, our laws make it almost impossible for their tenants to address legitimate issues. We still need standards in place to stop abuse, just like in 49 other states. Because of this, Arkansas has been labeled "The Worst Place to Rent in America":
2021 Washington County Habitability Ordinance
In the absence of a statewide law, we should look at local laws. My predecessor, JP Sue Madison, brought forward a habitability ordinance for Washington County in 2020, and I took up the baton in January 2021. You can read the entire ordinance here.
We're talking about basic things like working smoke alarms, working doors and windows, electricity, water and heating. This ordinance will prevent more unnecessary injuries, health issues and deaths. We have had more than one fire in Washington County where children died.
During the pandemic, it's especially important to protect people's health and safety.
This ordinance will also help expand the number of units where Housing Authority vouchers - Housing Choice Vouchers - can be used. HUD DOES have minimum habitability standards, and because the state of Arkansas doesn't, that puts a limitation on the number of units that can accept vouchers.
Thankfully, in early 2021, after years of delays and stonewalling, the Arkansas legislature finally passed a bare minimum Habitability Ordinance. But advocates say it contains many flaws and much more needs to be done just to match our neighboring states.
An ordinance at the county level could help decrease the number of people experiencing homelessness here in District 12. The district has the bulk of the homeless population in Washington County. HUD vouchers can only be used on housing that meets the agency's Housing Quality Standards. Having more units that meet those standards will help reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in our district.
The Rising Cost of Housing
In January 2021, I voted in favor of a new program providing $7.1 Million dollars in Emergency Rental Assistance to Washington County residents. The program is being run through the Fayetteville Housing Authority and the Springdale Housing Authority. I worked closely with the folks at the Fayetteville Housing Authority to help them get information and resources to get their program off the ground and make it a success.
According to the rules set by the Treasury Department, 90% of the money has to be used for rental assistance.
Because of rising rents in Fayetteville, many lower-income folks are being forced to move out of the city. They're moving where rents are less expensive, to places like Lincoln and Elkins. I'm all about partnerships, so I'd like to see the county work together with cities to educate more property owners about the benefits of accepting vouchers, so they can be used in more places. Those benefits include having vetted tenants, receiving direct deposit payments, and low delinquency rates.