As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to inflict severe hardship on Arkansas families and communities, federal protections against evictions are expiring – and in Arkansas’s case, these protections never existed at all. 

Arkansas is one of only a handful of states that has not taken any action to prevent evictions amid COVID-19. We are also the only state in the country where tenants can face criminal conviction for failing to pay their rent on time. In every other state, evictions are treated only as a civil matter. 

For years, the ACLU of Arkansas and our partners have fought to strike down the state’s criminal eviction law, under which being late on the rent can result in a criminal prosecution – purely on the basis of a landlord’s say-so. We remain committed to challenging this unjust law and defending renters whose rights have been violated.

If you were threatened with criminal penalties for failing to pay rent, we want to hear from you. Tell your story by filling out a complaint form on our website. 

Here’s what you need to know about Arkansas’ criminal eviction statute: 

  • Under Arkansas law, the landlord of a tenant who is one day late on rent may order the tenant to vacate the premises within 10 days. 
  • If the tenant fails to do so, they are guilty of a separate misdemeanor offense for each day they fail to vacate the premises following the expiration of the 10-day notice and must pay a fine of up to $25 per day or offense. 
  • By allowing a landlord to convert an otherwise civil landlord-tenant dispute into a criminal prosecution, this law constitutes an unconstitutional infringement on Arkansans’ right to trial and due process.
  • In 2012, Arkansas’ Non-Legislative Commission on the Study of Landlord-Tenant Laws recommended full repeal of the criminal eviction statute. 
  • Arkansas state courts have repeatedly rejected criminal evictions as unconstitutional.

This unconstitutional law is not the only example of Arkansas’ abysmal track record on tenants’ rights: 

  • Arkansas is the only state in the country that does not require landlords to maintain safe and sanitary premises. 
  • Arkansas is also the only state in the nation that adopted none of the recommendations for tenant protections from the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, a sample law governing residential landlord and tenant interactions. 

The ACLU is also continuing to press Governor Asa Hutchinson to institute a comprehensive moratorium on evictions as the pandemic continues. Throwing people out of their homes during a pandemic is wrong, and harmful to public health. 

Evictions also have a disproportionate impact on people of color. The ACLU’s Data Analytics team analyzed national eviction data from 2012 to 2016, and found that on average, Black renters had evictions filed against them by landlords at nearly twice the rate of white renters. Women of color, and particularly Black women, bear a disproportionate burden of eviction. 

The ACLU of Arkansas is committed to stopping evictions, protecting vulnerable communities, and ending the criminalization of poverty once and for all – and with your help, we will.