If you own residential rental property, chances are if you haven't already, you eventually will have to evict a tenant. While most evictions tend to be for non-payment of rent, tenants can also be evicted for breaking other lease terms, such as the number of occupants allowed in a residence, unauthorized pets, or damage to the premises, among other things. This article will help familiarize you with the eviction process in Arkansas. The information contained herein is informational only and not to be construed as legal advice. Each lease and eviction situation presents its own facts and circumstances and legal advice should be sought to determine the best way to handle each particular situation.
First, you must determine whether your tenant is in default. Most leases will contain language providing that a default or breach occurs when the tenant fails to comply with a term of the lease for a certain period of days, or fails to come into compliance within a certain period of days after having received written notice of the non-compliance. A landlord's failure to provide written notice, if required in the lease, can be detrimental to an eviction proceeding and could require the landlord to start over. As such, it is very important to be familiar with the notice provisions in your lease. Your attorney can assist you to ensure that you are complying with the notice provisions in your lease.
After notice has been given, if required, and the tenant remains non-compliant, the landlord can then bring an eviction action. In Arkansas, such actions are known as "unlawful detainers", meaning the tenant entered into possession of the premises in a lawful manner, but now remains there without the right to do so as a result of the breach or non-compliance. To begin the unlawful detainer process, the tenant must be provided with a three (3) day notice to quit (also known as a notice to vacate). Your attorney can assist you to make sure the notice complies with the statutory requirements.
If the tenant remains on the property at the expiration of the three (3) days, your attorney will draft a Complaint in Unlawful Detainer and accompanying documents and, upon your review and approval of those documents, thereafter file suit on your behalf. After suit is filed, it must be personally served upon the tenant. Once served, the tenant has five (5) business days to either: (a) object to the eviction action in writing by filing the objection with the Court, or (b) move out. If the landlord is determined to be entitled to possession, the Court will issue a Writ of Possession directing the County Sheriff to evict the tenants from the premises and place the landlord in possession. In some cases it will be necessary for the Court to hold a hearing before a Writ of Possession is issued. When the Sheriff receives the Writ of Possession, he is required to promptly make an attempt at service. The Sheriff will then return after the expiration of 24 hours from the time of service and, at that time, allow the landlord to take possession of the premises.
If the tenant leaves personal property on the premises as a result of the Sheriff's service of the Writ, the landlord has a duty to store the personal belongings in a reasonably safe place of storage under the landlord's control, until such time as the Court has rendered a final determination in the matter. A final determination cannot be made until at least thirty (30) calendars days after the tenant was served with the unlawful detainer lawsuit. The Court may require that the landlord sell the tenant's belongings in a commercially reasonable manner.