Whether you are a tenant or a landlord, the Arkansas eviction process is something with which you should be familiar. Arkansas is a landlord friendly state, and so tenants that do not pay their rent should expect little leniency throughout the process.
Arkansas law states that a tenant who fails to pay rent and refuses to comply with the landlord’s three day written notice to move is guilty of unlawful detainer.
Once the tenant becomes guilty of unlawful detainer, the landlord may file suit against the tenant in court. After being served with the suit, the tenant has five days to file a written answer.
If the tenant wishes to dispute the landlord’s claims and wants to remain living on the premises, he or she must include with the answer enough money to cover any rent amount due and must continue to pay rent into the court registry for the duration of the proceedings.
If the tenant fails to answer, pay the rent due, or both, the court may issue a writ of possession, giving the landlord the right to retake the property. The sheriff will serve the writ upon the tenant, thereby giving the tenant 24 hours to move. If the tenant fails to do so, the sheriff will forcibly remove the tenant. At that point, the landlord will have regained possession of the property.
An unlawful detainer action, however, is a two-step process, regaining possession being only the first step. Up to this point, the court has made a preliminary determination as to who has right to possession the property. The question of damages is left for step two.
The landlord may, but is not obligated to, continue onto step two to seek damages for backed rent. Often, a landlord will forego this step because a tenant with the money to pay rent likely would have already done so.
Nevertheless, individual circumstances vary, and sometimes landlords believe they have a good chance at recovering damages.
Landlords should be aware, however, that a tenant may dispute the claim of unlawful detainer and may even file a counterclaim. If the final court findings are for the tenant, the landlord will be held liable for damages the tenant suffered as a result of being evicted. While this is relatively uncommon, it is something to keep in mind.