Come, gather round ye heathens and lets us learn a little something today about Arkansas, shall we? Shut up, it won’t kill you, it’s not Texas. Okay, what do we know about this fair state? It brought us Wal-Mart, so that sucks. Then there’s all the Duggars and counting, gross. Also, Bill Clinton was its governor and Hillary cried the first time she ever saw it after she found out she was moving there. It is also one of the top 10 fattest states with a 30 percent obesity rate, ranks 45th in education, and is the third-poorest state in the nation. But wait, there’s more! They are number 1 in one thing – well, the only one actually. Arkansas is the one and only state in the nation with a law that says you can be put in jail for not paying your rent! Yes sir, it’s three hots and a cot time for you there, squatter, if you don’t skee-daddle within the 10 days your landlord has given you to vacate.
Human Rights Watch has put together a 44 page report that explains all about how wretched and terrible and easily abused this law can be for the already down on their luck renter:
The failure-to-vacate law was used to bring charges against more than 1,200 Arkansas tenants in 2012 alone. This figure greatly understates the total number of people impacted by the law. The vast majority of tenants scramble to move out when faced with a 10-day notice to vacate rather than face trial –- and with good reason.
Making matters considerably worse, the law strongly discourages accused tenants from pleading not guilty. Those who do are required to deposit the total amount of rent they allegedly owe with the court, which they forfeit if they are found guilty. Tenants who are unable to deposit the rent amount but plead not guilty anyway face substantially harsher fines and up to 90 days in jail. Tenants who plead guilty face none of this.
Here’s a question: how’s it going to be any easier to get your money, landlord, if now your renter is paying legal fees or sitting in jail? And also, of course there are lots of people being dicks with this law and do things just to screw with people because they can. “Human Rights Watch interviewed one tenant whose landlord got an arrest warrant issued against her just three days after ordering her to move out. Another woman was repeatedly charged on the basis of false claims made by a man from whom she had purchased her home – and paid it off in full.”
A commission has been formed by the legislature and last month they recommended that this law should be repealed, so hopefully this shit won’t go on too long, cause man, it sucks being broke, it sucks to get thrown out of the place you are renting, and a criminal record ain’t exactly going to help get you back on your feet.