Two proposed bills look to provide minimum protection for renters

Bill provides minimum protection for renters

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Next week, two bills will go before lawmakers which will decide whether or not more responsibilities are needed for landlords. One bill would add more protection for renters, and another puts more responsibilities on landlords.

House Bill 1166, introduced by Representative Laurie Rushing (R-Hot Springs), would require landlords to provide three things; a functioning roof, heating and air, and water and sewage.

But, a counter bill, House Bill 2135, takes things a step further. Introduced by Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock), the bill would add more responsibly to landlords. It would require them to maintain building and housing codes, ensure the property is safe and fit for living and provide doors that lock and work. 

Emeka Onyekwelu believes more protection is needed for tenants in Arkansas. He concerns arised after renting a home where he faced problems with mold and a leaky ceiling. An issue that landlords throughout Arkansas aren't required to fix right now.

"This is the only state where laws are meant to favor landlords only,” Onyekwelu said. "One might be thinking, 'Oh, if it's in that condition, why not move and go to another place?' It is not as easy said than done because it cost money and it cost time.” 

He agrees with HB1166, calling it a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t require the landlord to fix issues like mold and pest treatments or natural disaster cleanups.

Randy Thomason, President for Arkansas Landlord Association, said both bills offer some protection for both renters and tenants, but he said HB2135 would be a move too quick for landlords.

"We hope that all the parties can understand that we are going to do a step by step approach,” Thomason said.

Thomason agrees that changes are needed, but it will take those affected coming together to resolve the issue.

"We have realtors on another side, we have landlords in the middle,” Thomason said. “We have a tenant's rights group.”

Thomason said that some tenants mistreat and cause damage to the home they live, but he's hoping that by providing training to landlords, it will allow them to work together with tenants when repairs are needed.

"There should be a living standard as to how a house should be and the living standard for you to introduce it to someone,” said Onyekwelu.

Right now, Arkansas is the only state that doesn't provide minimum standards for people looking to rent an apartment or residence.

Both bills will go before committee on Monday morning.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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