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Criminal Notice to Vacate

Arkansas Criminal Notice to Vacate Procedure

Arkansas is one of the most lucrative real estate investment locations in the country.  In addition, Arkansas law is very favorable to landlords.  In fact, Arkansas is the only state in the U.S. where it is criminal for a tenant to remain in the property and fail to pay rent.  Arkansas essentially views the tenant who refuses to leave and fails to pay the rent as stealing from the landlord.  This added protection has far reaching benefits to landlords.

First, while this is technically not an eviction, the procedure serves the same essential purpose of helping the landlord regain possession of the property.  In fact, in my experience as a landlord and as an attorney representing property managers, apartment complex owners, and landlords, I would say 90% of all residential tenants move out when served with a criminal notice to vacate within 10 days.

Second, this procedure is very actively used.  For example, in Little Rock, the Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney’s office processes on average 20 criminal Notice To Vacate complaints every business day.  Keep in mind, those are the tenants who have failed to move out AFTER the 10-day notice, and the vast majority of tenants move out before they risk having a warrant issued for their arrest.

Third, the benefits to landlords because of the statute reach other areas of the law.  An example can been demonstrated with reference to bankruptcy.  Generally, if someone files for bankruptcy, an automatic stay prevents a landlord from evicting a tenant or suing to collect rent and damages.  In that situation, the landlord has to go before the bankruptcy court and request the stay be lifted.  Because most landlords are not attorneys and thus not familiar with what is required to get the stay lifted, a tenant’s bankruptcy becomes a time consuming and costly endeavor for a landlord.  However, the bankruptcy stay does not apply to criminal matters, and therefore, a landlord in Arkansas can move forward with this Notice to Vacate procedure regardless of the stay.

Fourth, if the landlord has rented a property to members of the military, those members have special protections under the Service Members Civil Relief Act as it relates to evictions.  However, like bankruptcy, the Service Members Civil Relief Act does not apply to criminal matters.

Fifth, as with any crime, once the tenant is found guilty, the landlord-victim can request the judge to order restitution for rent and damages.  While restitution is discretionary with the judge, the landlord-victim should ask for it.
If you need help getting a tenant out of your property and you want to do so quickly and cost effectively, please call me at 501-952-8114 or email me at Jason@jasonbolden.com.  Below is the Arkansas criminal notice to vacate law.

Arkansas Code Annotated §18-16-101.
Failure to pay rent — Refusal to vacate upon notice — Penalty.

(a)Any person who shall rent any dwelling house or other building or any land situated in the State of Arkansas and who shall refuse or fail to pay the rent therefore when due according to contract shall at once forfeit all right to longer occupy the dwelling house or other building or land.

(b) (1)If, after ten (10) days’ notice in writing shall have been given by the landlord or the landlord’s agent or attorney to the tenant to vacate the dwelling house or other building or land, the tenant shall willfully refuse to vacate and surrender the possession of the premises to the landlord or the landlord’s agent or attorney, the tenant shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

(2)Upon conviction before any justice of the peace or other court of competent jurisdiction in the county where the premises are situated, the tenant shall be fined twenty-five dollars ($25.00) per day for each day that the tenant fails to vacate the premises.

(c)(1)Any tenant charged with refusal to vacate upon notice who enters a plea of not guilty to the charge of refusal to vacate upon notice and who continues to inhabit the premises after notice to vacate pursuant to subsection (b) of this section shall be required to deposit into the registry of the court a sum equal to the amount of rent due on the premises. The rental payments shall continue to be paid into the registry of the court during the pendency of the proceedings in accordance with the rental agreement between the landlord and the tenant, whether the agreement is written or oral.

(2)(A)If the tenant is found not guilty of refusal to vacate upon notice, the rental payments shall be returned to the tenant.

(B)If the tenant is found guilty of refusal to vacate upon notice, the rental payment paid into the registry of the court shall be paid over to the landlord by the court clerk.

(3)Any tenant who pleads guilty or nolo contendere to or is found guilty of refusal to vacate upon notice and has not paid the required rental payments into the registry of the court shall be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.

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