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. It is also the only state in the US where landlords are not required by law to maintain their properties. The combination of these two things makes it almost impossible for some tenants to address legitimate issues with property owners. Most landlords do the right thing, but 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":
In the absence of a statewide law, we should look at local laws. Outgoing District 12 JP Sue Madison brought forward a habitability ordinance for Washington County last year, but it didn’t make it out of committee. She has shared photos of rentals here in Washington County that are just in horrible shape. We’re talking about basic things like no hot water and holes in the roof. The Arkansas legislature will have another chance to fix this issue in early 2021. If they fail to act, I'd like to bring back a new version of this common-sense ordinance locally.
Passing an ordinance at either the state or 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. The Fayetteville Housing Authority (which covers all of Washington County except Springdale) is on track to get an additional $200,000 a year in voucher money on a permanent basis starting in 2021. But the vouchers can only be used on housing that meets HUD’s Housing Quality Standards. Having more units that meet those standards will help reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness in our district.
During my time on the FHA Board, I learned that because of rising rents in Fayetteville, many of the people we served were being forced to take the vouchers they received and move out of the city. They are using them in the County instead, where rents are less expensive, or in more affordable cities like Lincoln and West Fork. I'm all about partnerships, so I'd like to see the county work together with organizations like the FHA 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.