LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Controversy concerning the Big Country Chateau Apartments in Little Rock continues.
Tonight, tenants once again voiced their concerns and frustrations over the living conditions.
According to Act 1052, landlords are supposed to provide necessities like water, electricity, heat and air conditioning. But one renter’s advocate said the law is too broad and does not give renters enough power to fight back.
Tenants at Big Country Chateau said they have been informed their water and electricity will be shut off September 1, despite paying rent.
“They should be able to take action if the place is not safe and healthy,” said Neil Sealy, Organizer for Arkansas Renters United.
Sealy said the current law favors the landlord and not the tenant, especially when basic needs are not being met.
“First of all, we did pass a renters rights or habitability bill this session,” said State Representative Robin Lundstrum (R-18). “These renters have entered into a contract with their landlord and if the landlord isn’t honoring that contract and it’s a habitability issue, those renters need to be contacting code enforcement.”
Lundstrum is correct, however, the bill only applies to rental agreements or renewals after November 1, 2021. Sealy said that is a big problem for a lot of people.
“There’s no right of action for tenants except if their rent is paid in full and they’ve given the landlord a period of time to fix up they can move,” Sealy said.
According to state law, that period of time is 30 days and if the problem still exists, tenants can move out without penalty and get their security deposits back.
But, tenants must be current on their rent.
“That landlord needs to follow the contract and if they don’t at the end of the contract, that renter should leave,” Lundstrum said.
Sealy said this is not his first go-around trying to strengthen renter’s rights in Arkansas, but there is an ongoing debate over if the power lies with cities or the legislature, so it continues to be an uphill battle.
City officials were at Big Country Chateau Wednesday doing an inspection. We are still waiting to get the full report to find out what is going to happen to Big Country Chateau and its tenants.