Editor’s note: The following commentary appeared in the March 16 edition of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal.
Various media outlets have devoted significant time and energy reporting on the state of affairs of landlord/tenant law in Arkansas, especially as it relates to the role of the Arkansas Realtors Association (ARA). The ARA has been characterized as a force that consistently works to block the passage of legislation that would benefit tenants.
This could not be further from the truth.
ARA is concerned with affordable, quality housing and will continue to be a watchdog opposing legislation that would likely increase rents and further reduce the supply of affordable rental housing. We believe those on the opposite side of our efforts are well-intentioned and would like to help tenants. However, we will continue to fight provisions that will increase insurance premiums, legal fees and other expenses, drive up rents and ultimately hurt tenants.
In 2017, the ARA supported House Bill (HB) 1166, a simple and straightforward bill, which included affirmative rights for tenants. The bill died in the Senate near the end of the regular session when a hostile amendment was added that would disrupt the balance of rights between landlords and tenants.
In 2019, HB 1410, another landlord/tenant bill, was introduced and ARA was invited to provide input as the bill was being amended. Members of ARA spent many hours reading, discussing and meeting with other interested parties and negotiating specific provisions of the bill. The goal was to move a bill forward that would benefit tenants without harming landlords. After hours of work involved in amending the bill, the proponents withdrew their support on the morning the bill was scheduled to be heard in the legislative committee meeting.
ARA does not pretend to have all the answers related to achieving better enforcement of current law and regulation for the protection of tenants. However, we will continue to provide important and helpful input to ensure Arkansas’ rental market continues to offer the most affordable rates in the nation. We will not support legislation that creates opportunities for bad actors — landlords or tenants — to take advantage of the system.
ARA does not simply pay lip service to our belief that the rights of tenants are equally as important as the rights of landlords. We have taken action to show support of that belief. In 2001, ARA worked with the Arkansas General Assembly to establish the Arkansas Fair Housing Council. Prior to the establishment of the council, any Arkansan with a fair housing complaint had to travel to the regional office in Dallas to be heard.
In 2004, ARA worked with the Arkansas Real Estate Commission, the Arkansas Fair Housing Council and the Institute of Real Estate Management to draft and publish the Arkansas Landlord/Tenant Handbook, and worked with the same organizations in 2014 to update the handbook.
Arkansas Realtors are proud to be “all about housing” — equal access to housing, affordable housing, nondiscriminatory fair housing. A place tenants can be proud to call home. We will always support the rights of tenants while never abandoning the rights of landlords.
Doyle Yates is the 2020 chairman of the Arkansas Realtors Association legislative committee and past president of the Arkansas Realtors Association. The opinions expressed are those of the author.