The Arkansas eviction process follows the same general eviction process:
Every eviction process is different and dependent on the lease/rental agreement signed by the tenant and the landlord. It is always best to exercise meticulous file-keeping to avoid errors that the tenant could exploit.
This article details a summary for landlords to refer to when evicting a tenant. Confirm procedures with your local court to make sure the entire process goes as smoothly as possible.
1. Failure to comply with rent deadlines
A tenant’s rent is late in Arkansas if they have been unable to pay it for at least 5 days. If rent still has not been paid within that time, a landlord can pursue either of the following:
Neither option gives the tenant a chance to pay their rent. They have to move out of the rental unit before the notice expires.
If they remain in the rental property even after the time given to them ends, the landlord can start filing for eviction.
2. Violation of the lease/rental agreement
The rental lease agreement has to be upheld by both tenant and landlord for the entire duration of the rental period. Agreements may vary from tenant to tenant.
If a tenant violates any terms from the lease agreement, the landlord must issue a 14-Day Notice to Comply. If the tenant resolves the issues on time, the eviction process does not continue.
Lease violations may include:
- Disturbing the other tenants with loud activity
- Smoking in non-smoking areas
- Keeping pets in pet-free properties, etc.
If the tenants fail to resolve the violations on time, then the landlord may continue with the eviction.
3. Conducting illegal activity
If a tenant has engaged in illegal behavior within the property, the landlord is not required to give tenants written notice before starting the eviction process.
Examples of illegal activities are:
- Involvement in the unlawful distribution of alcohol
- Theft, violence, assault
Landlords are advised to keep a close eye on their tenants to make sure illegal behavior does not go unnoticed.
4. Non-renewal of the lease after the rental period ends
In Arkansas, landlords cannot evict a tenant or force them to vacate the property without probable cause. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules, they can stay until their rental period ends.
Landlords are not obliged to remind their tenants to renew or vacate the property unless stated in the lease/rental agreement.
Filing a Complaint
1. How to File a Complaint
The eviction process can only begin after the issuance of a written notice. The landlord must have allowed enough time to pass before filing for eviction.
The eviction process is as follows:
- Proceed to the justice court the rental property belongs to
- File a complaint or request an order for eviction (if charging with Criminal Nonpayment of Rent Evictions)
- Pay the fees
In Arkansas, filing fees cost about $65 statewide.
It takes about 3 days to 30 days from the issuance of the Notice to Vacate, depending on the reason for eviction and the lease agreement.
Serving the Tenant
1. How to Serve a Tenant
An official from the court, such as a sheriff, deputy, or a process server, delivers the summons for the hearing and the complaint to the tenant.
There are several methods to accomplish this:
- Personal Service - The court official delivers the Summons and Complaint to the tenant in person
- Substituted Service - If the tenant is unavailable, someone living with the tenant who is over the age of 18 may receive the documents
If none of these methods are possible, the court official turns to the following method:
- Mailing - The server mails the documents via first-class mail or certified mail
- Delivery - Enlisting the services of a delivery company
Landlords and their lawyers are not allowed to serve the tenant in person. They can only do so using the Mailing or Delivery service.
2. After Serving the Summons and Complaint
If the mailing method is used and the tenant does not reply within 20 days, the landlord has to use another method to resend the documents.
3. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and replied
In the state of Arkansas, a reply from the tenant is necessary for a court date. There is no specific timeframe after receiving the tenant’s response for the court hearing to be scheduled.
If both parties are present at the hearing, the landlord needs to support their claim and show evidence during the hearing.
This could include, but is not limited to the following:
- Copy of the deed and lease
- Rent receipts and ledgers
- Bank statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations, correspondence, etc.
The serving of the documents depends on how quickly the landlord can implement a service to deliver the documents to the client. It can be from a few days to a few weeks.
Tenants have 10 days to respond to the summons and complaint if they are being evicted for criminal nonpayment of rent.
In all other circumstances, clients only have 5 days to file their response after receiving the summons and complaint.
Asking for Possession
1. File a Motion to Receive Judgement and get a Judgement for Possession
The landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against the tenant. If the tenant does not show up to the hearing, the landlord wins by default.
A hearing is scheduled a few days to a few weeks once the tenant files their answer.
1. After the landlord wins the case
Provided that the tenant does not appeal for reconsideration, a Writ of Possession is issued no less than 3 days after the landlord wins the case.
The Writ of Possession gives the tenant a maximum of 24 hours from the moment they receive it to vacate the property.
2. Move out process
The sheriff/constable posts the Writ of Possession on the property. This informs the tenant that they have 24 hours to vacate the premises with their belongings.
Once the 24 hours are up, the sheriff/constable is allowed to remove the tenant by force. If the tenant refuses, they will be arrested.
If the tenant leaves behind any belongings, the landlord is under no obligation to wait for them or give them notice. They can dispose of the belongings or personal property immediately.
Even if the landlord wins the case, they are not allowed to engage in illegal methods of eviction.
The tenants have 24 hours upon posting the Writ of Possession to move out of the property.
Arkansas Eviction Timeline
Below is the average timeline for a complete eviction process. This timeline is not entirely accurate because there is no specific period for court dates to be scheduled.
On average, it would take anywhere between 2 weeks to 3 months for a complete eviction process.
1. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the eviction request and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This gets VERY hard to search through, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other option that is easily searchable.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
2. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, when rent is due, and any penalties for late payment.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also show any fees your bank may have charged you, and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, a letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
3. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, it’s safe to say you will normally win this dispute.
- Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, some videos taken from your personal device of the violation or illegal activity can help your case in court.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. As a good practice though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.
Can I force a tenant to move out in Arkansas?
No. A landlord could be sued for forceful eviction of a tenant if they skip the proper eviction processes.
In the state of Arkansas, the court determines the damages a landlord has to pay.
Which eviction methods are illegal in Arkansas?
Self-help eviction is illegal. Examples of such acts include (but are not limited to):
- Cutting off the tenant’s electric, water, and/or heat supply
- Changing the locks to prevent the tenant from entering the property
- Vandalizing or destroying the tenant’s property
What are the penalties for a self-help eviction in Arkansas?
According to Arkansas Civil Code, you may be liable for Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees. The statute also gives the tenant the right to stay on the property. A tenant can sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.
What other laws should I be aware of in Arkansas?
Landlords should be aware of the changes made to the Eviction Policies in the state of Arkansas. Especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is also wise for landlords to check out laws on Security Deposits. These deposits protect the landlord in case the tenants violate any terms in the lease/rental agreement or fail to pay their rent.
- AR Bureau of Legislative Services: ACA § 16-17-705
- eForms: Arkansas Eviction Notice Forms
- Legal Templates: Arkansas Eviction Notice
- NOLO: Consequences of Illegal Evictions
- NOLO: The Eviction Process in Arkansas: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers
- UA Little Rock: Consequences of Covid: The Eviction Ban and Arkansas