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Pro-landlord bill heading to governor

SHERWOOD (KATV) -

A bill that seeks to restore criminal eviction as an option for landlords easily passed the Arkansas House of Representatives on Tuesday.

All it lacks now in order to become law is Governor Hutchinson’s signature.

Before the House vote, Republican representative Laurie Rushing...a realtor from Hot Springs...told her colleagues that criminal eviction has worked beautifully in the state of Arkansas.

That hasn't been the experience of Wilma Young.

"I had never been to jail in my life,” says Young. “So to go to jail...and then handcuffed in front of my children? That was very traumatizing to me...and very, I said I will not let this walk."

It has been almost 20 years since an officer knocked on Young's Park Crest apartment door in Sherwood to arrest her for non-payment of rent.

It was a misunderstanding. She had paid her rent. So had eight other female tenants.

But a management mistake...and Arkansas law...allowed them to be arrested and jailed.

Arkansas is the only state in the country that makes non-payment of rent a crime.

The statute was changed in 2001 and later ruled unconstitutional, so lawmakers are eager to return the statute to its pre-2001 form so that it will once again be quicker and cheaper for landlords to evict...and possibly jail...a tenant who is late with the rent.

"Arkansas needs to rewrite and have the public involved or tenants involved in the process of what the landlords have gone wrong and what should be done right," says Young.

Young says most tenants withhold rent as a way to get a landlord's attention when things need to be fixed.

Arkansas is also the only state in the nation without a law that requires landlords to keep their properties up to a minimum livable standard

Young and the other renters who were mistakenly jailed later sued and won confidential judgments against the owners of Park Crest apartments.

Air date: February 7th, 2017

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