1 Day Late on Rent Can Land You in Jail? A Shockingly Draconian Renters Law (Hard Times USA)

How Arkansas's landlord-tenant law criminalizes the poor.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/photo.ua

The following article is part of AlterNet's series on poverty, Hard Times USA.

 

One evening this past August, Angela and Steve received a knock on the door. The couple opened it to see two police officers standing outside.
“One of them said, ‘We have a warrant for y’all’s arrest. … The next thing I remember is my husband dragging me from the kitchen. I had fainted,” Angela recalled, according to Human Rights Watch.

Their crime? The couple was unable to afford their $585 rent payment that month.

Two weeks after their rent was due, Steve approached their landlord with half of the money for the rent, but she wouldn’t take it.

“I’ve never been more than one month late. Then they stick this notice on the door and said get out in 10 days,” Steve told Human Rights Watch.

After failed negotiations with the landlord and the near impossibility of finding another place in 10 days, the couple ended up with an arrest warrant and had to appear in court. When the court clerk asked Angela for a mug shot, she broke down and screamed: “Steve, are we going to jail? I don’t want to go to jail!”

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Tags: Arkansas, debtors-prison, draconian, jail, law, rent, renters

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