Fayetteville Law Firm | Booneville Law Firm

Want to Know How to Deal with Non-Paying Tenants?

Want to Know How to Deal with Non-Paying Tenants?

No, you can’t just change the locks.

If you’ve ever been involved with an eviction, you know that it is not an ideal situation — for either side. For landlords, the typical case is that the tenant is behind on their rent payments or has otherwise breached their lease agreement.

What options does the landlord have?

Perhaps one of the first things that a landlord might be tempted to do would be to simply lock the tenants out and deny them access to the property for failure to pay rent.  This type of remedy is considered “self-help,” and it is not permitted by law in Arkansas. If you are a landlord, your sole remedy is to turn to the judicial system to have the tenant removed.  

In Arkansas, there are two avenues by which a landlord can remove a tenant — either by filing an eviction action or an unlawful detainer action.  While there are key differences between the actions, the end result is typically the same. To determine which action to file depends on the individual facts at hand.

Eviction Action vs Unlawful Detainer Action

An eviction action can only be initiated in District Court and typically only for those cases with damages of less than $5,000.  So, if your tenant owes more than $5,000 you will likely need to file an unlawful detainer action. Eviction actions also require that there be a lease in place and that a landlord/tenant relationship exist. The quickest possible time frame for the removal of the tenant once eviction proceedings have started is about 11 days without any successful objection on behalf of the tenant.  

Alternatively, the unlawful detainer action must be filed in Circuit Court.  The Circuit Court filing fees are more than twice the fees charged in District Court.  However, an unlawful detainer action may be your only option if you have a tenant who owes more than $5,000, or you do not have a landlord/tenant relationship with the person residing on your property.

The quickest time frame to remove someone in an unlawful detainer action is about 9 days if there is no written objection filed. If the person residing on the property does file a written objection, they must also deposit the amount of rent due at the time the objection is filed with the registry of the court, and they must continue to deposit rent throughout the remainder of the unlawful detainer proceeding.  

Arkansas Eviction Requirements

There are a number of important requirements that must be met for both an eviction and an unlawful detainer action.  The failure to abide by these requirements could result in dismissal of your case which would allow the tenant to continue to reside on the property for an even longer duration.  It is crucial to seek the counsel of an Arkansas attorney to ensure that all of the requirements are met so that you can regain control of your property as soon as possible.

The end goal with both actions is to get a new tenant in to start paying rent and to obtain a judgment against the old tenant for the amount that is due. Keep in mind that a judgment against the old tenant is only as good as what that person has. So if they have no job and no assets, it may be extremely difficult to recoup the money that is owed.  

The eviction process can be a tedious and frustrating process for a landlord who simply wants to keep the income stream coming in from their rental property.  We strongly advise you to reach out to an attorney to help guide you through the process, make sure that all legal requirements are met, and to help expedite things as quickly as possible to minimize your loss.  

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Fayetteville Law Office

(479) 935-8313

909 Rolling Hills Dr.
Fayetteville, AR 72703

Booneville Law Office

(479) 935-8060

4 Village Loop
Booneville, AR 72927

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