Complaint leads to eviction

A lack of renter's rights in Arkansas allows for retaliation against tenants who complain. (Photo courtesy: KATV)

It is a fairly common scenario in Arkansas: A renter is unhappy with a landlord because problems aren't being addressed, so rent is withheld.

But what comes next? An eviction.

The Washington family consistently paid their rent late but in the full amount. But not this month. Because after complaining about a lack of heat, they'll soon be on the street.

It began with a heating unit that couldn't be repaired. It needed to be replaced but the landlord brought over a couple of space heaters instead. That created a new problem.

"Yeah, see this thing has only got like a 60-amp service on the box,” said North Little Rock city inspector Cedric Williams. "Which means that when they are burning two space heaters, nine times out of 10, it's going to shut the breakers off here."

So the Washingtons will have to use the gas burners on their stove-top to heat their home this weekend.

"I was having to plug in space heaters and do gas,” Penola Washington said. “The gas bill is extra high and the light bill is extra high."

We visited the Greenbrier home of their landlord, 82-year-old Hayward Wallace, to ask him why he won't fix the furnace at this North Little Rock rental house. He wasn't home.

We did speak to Wallace later and he said the reason is simple: He can't afford to replace it.

The Washingtons believe if the heating unit in his home quit working, the money to fix it would be found.

"As a matter of fact, he did tell me that,” Washington said. “We just had to replace a unit at our house and it was $3,500. That's what he said, so ... ."

In Arkansas, there is no law that requires a landlord to have a working furnace at a rental home.

"Yes, I know the landlords here in Arkansas get away with quite a bit," Washington said.

The Washingtons believe that landlords have an unfair advantage over tenants in Arkansas and that things won't change until the laws change.

It remains to be seen if legislation will be filed at the Capitol this session that seeks to strengthen renters' rights.

Air date: Jan. 17th, 2019

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