A Comprehensive Guide to Unlawful Detainer in Arkansas: Eviction Process

Dealing with an eviction in Arkansas, specifically an unlawful detainer, can be daunting. It’s important you understand the key points right away.

  • Quick answer: In Arkansas,
  • Unlawful detainer is a legal way landlords evict tenants who stay without permission.
  • Reasons include not paying rent, not moving out when the lease ends, and breaking lease terms.
  • Process involves notice, court filings, and possibly a trial.
  • Legal aid is available for tenants facing eviction.

Eviction, particularly unlawful detainer, is a process no landlord or tenant wants to experience, yet it’s a necessary part of property management. In Arkansas, this process is defined by specific steps that protect the rights of both parties involved. This guide aims to demystify those steps, making the eviction process clear and understandable. We’ll dive into what constitutes an unlawful detainer, outline each phase of the eviction process, and offer insights into the protections and obligations of tenants and landlords alike. For real estate investors looking for a hands-off approach to managing their properties, understanding these fundamentals can aid in finding seasoned managers who respect and abide by Arkansas’s eviction laws.

Understanding Unlawful Detainer

When we dive into the topic of unlawful detainer in Arkansas, we’re talking about a specific legal procedure that allows landlords to evict tenants who are not following the terms of their lease agreement. This might sound complicated, but let’s break it down into simpler parts.

At the heart of this process is the Ark. Code Ann § 18-60-301. This piece of legislation outlines what constitutes an unlawful detainer and sets the stage for how these cases are handled in the legal system. An unlawful detainer is not just a fancy term for eviction; it’s a civil lawsuit. This means the landlord can’t just tell you to leave and change the locks. They have to go through the court to get an order that forces you to leave.

Why a civil lawsuit, you might ask? Because it provides a structured, legal framework for resolving disputes between landlords and tenants. It ensures that both parties have an opportunity to present their side of the story in front of a judge. This is crucial because it upholds the principles of fairness and justice.

Cases of unlawful detainer are handled in the circuit court. This is important because the circuit court is a court of general jurisdiction that can handle a wide variety of cases, including those related to property and housing. When a landlord files a complaint for unlawful detainer, they’re essentially asking the court to intervene and resolve a dispute that they’ve been unable to settle with the tenant.

Here’s what happens in a nutshell:
1. The landlord believes there’s a valid reason to evict the tenant (like not paying rent, breaking lease terms, etc.).
2. The landlord files a complaint in the circuit court, officially starting the unlawful detainer lawsuit.
3. The court then examines the evidence, hears from both parties, and makes a decision based on the law and the facts presented.

This process underscores the importance of understanding your rights and obligations, whether you’re a tenant or a landlord. It’s not just about knowing when and how an eviction can occur, but also about understanding the legal pathways and protections available to both parties.

Unlawful detainer in Arkansas serves as a legal mechanism to resolve disputes over property possession in a fair, orderly manner. It’s a reminder that laws are in place to protect everyone involved in the rental process, ensuring that actions taken are within the bounds of the law.

Steps in the Eviction Process

Navigating the eviction process in Arkansas, especially under the umbrella of unlawful detainer, can seem daunting. But, breaking it down into steps makes it more manageable. Let’s dive in.

Notice Requirements

First things first, a landlord must give a tenant a written eviction notice. This isn’t a “maybe” – it’s a must. In Arkansas, the law requires giving at least three days’ notice to the tenant before moving forward with an eviction lawsuit. This step is crucial and skipping it can invalidate the whole process.

Due to the CARES Act, certain properties might have different rules, especially those with federally backed mortgages or that participate in federal housing programs.

Pre-Hearing Process

Once the notice period has expired, the landlord can file a complaint in the circuit court. This complaint is the official start of the unlawful detainer action. Along with the complaint, the landlord must file an affidavit and ensure a summons is issued to the tenant, notifying them of the lawsuit.

The court then issues a notice of intent to the tenant, which serves as a formal warning of the impending legal action. If the tenant fails to respond, the court may issue a writ of possession—a legal order granting the landlord possession of the property.

Possession Hearing

At the possession hearing, the landlord must present evidence supporting their claim for eviction. This might include the lease agreement, records of unpaid rent, and any communication with the tenant regarding the lease violations.

The tenant, on the other hand, has the opportunity to present defenses. Maybe they did pay the rent, or perhaps there’s a misunderstanding about the lease terms.

If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, a writ of possession is issued, and the tenant must vacate the property within a specified time frame, usually 24 hours.

Trial and Settlement

Not all eviction cases end at the possession hearing. Some may proceed to a trial, where both parties can present more detailed evidence and arguments. It’s also a stage where settlements can be reached, potentially saving both parties time and money.

If the case goes to trial and the landlord wins, they can receive a judgment for not only possession but also for damages like unpaid rent, attorney’s fees, and court costs.

The eviction process is complex and following the proper legal procedures is critical. Landlords must adhere to the law to the letter, and tenants have rights and defenses available to them. Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, understanding these steps can help navigate the often stressful process of unlawful detainer in Arkansas.

In the next section, we’ll explore tenant rights and protections in more detail, shedding light on the safeguards in place for tenants facing eviction.

Tenant Rights and Protections

When it comes to unlawful detainer in Arkansas, tenants have rights and protections under both state and federal laws. It’s crucial for tenants to be aware of these rights to ensure they are not unfairly evicted or mistreated during the eviction process.

Tenant Rights Handbook: A vital resource for understanding your rights as a tenant in Arkansas. This handbook covers everything from lease agreements to eviction notices, providing a comprehensive overview of what you’re entitled to and the obligations of your landlord.

CARES Act Protections: For tenants in federally backed housing, the CARES Act offers additional protections against eviction. It’s important to know if your rental unit falls under this category, as it could impact the eviction process and timelines.

Self-Help Eviction: Arkansas law strictly prohibits landlords from performing “self-help” evictions. This means your landlord cannot change the locks, shut off utilities, or remove your belongings without a court order. If you’re facing such actions, know that these are not legal steps, and you have the right to challenge them.

Center for Arkansas Legal Services & Legal Aid of Arkansas: Both organizations offer free legal aid to tenants facing eviction. If you’re unable to afford a private attorney, reaching out to these services can provide you with the legal assistance you need. They can help you understand the eviction process, file necessary paperwork, and represent you in court if needed.

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The eviction process can be daunting, but knowing your rights and the resources available can make a significant difference. Whether it’s consulting the tenant rights handbook, understanding your protections under the CARES Act, or seeking assistance from legal aid services, there are tools at your disposal to help you navigate through an unlawful detainer in Arkansas.

In the next section, we’ll discuss landlord obligations and restrictions, further highlighting the legal framework that governs the landlord-tenant relationship in Arkansas.

Landlord Obligations and Restrictions

When it comes to managing a property and dealing with tenants, landlords in Arkansas have specific obligations and restrictions they must adhere to. Understanding these can help both landlords and tenants ensure a fair and legal rental process. Let’s break down the key areas: lease termination, discrimination, self-help eviction, and security deposits.

Lease Termination

In Arkansas, a landlord can terminate a lease for various reasons, including but not limited to, failure to pay rent, violation of lease terms, or even without cause in some situations. However, they must provide proper notice. For an oral lease, this means a notice period equivalent to one rental period. For a written lease, the terms of the lease will dictate the notice requirements. It’s crucial for both parties to understand the lease terms to avoid surprises.


Discrimination in housing is a serious violation of both federal and state laws. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. In Arkansas, landlords must ensure they follow these guidelines in all aspects of renting out a property, from advertising to lease terms and conditions. Discrimination complaints can be filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission.

Self-Help Eviction

Arkansas law is clear: landlords cannot take eviction into their own hands. This means no changing locks, shutting off utilities, or removing a tenant’s belongings without a court order. These actions are considered “self-help” evictions and are illegal. If a landlord wishes to evict a tenant, they must follow the proper legal procedure, starting with a formal eviction notice and potentially leading to court if the tenant does not comply.

Security Deposits

Security deposit laws in Arkansas are designed to protect tenants from excessive charges. Landlords who rent six or more units cannot demand a security deposit greater than two months’ rent. Upon a tenant moving out, the landlord has 60 days to return the deposit or provide an itemized list of deductions for repairs or unpaid rent. This law ensures that tenants are not unfairly charged for normal wear and tear or other unjustifiable reasons.

Key Takeaways for Landlords and Tenants:

  • Lease Termination: Know the terms of your lease and follow proper notice requirements.
  • Discrimination: Understand that housing discrimination is illegal and report any violations.
  • Self-Help Eviction: Landlords must follow legal procedures for evictions; illegal actions can lead to serious consequences.
  • Security Deposits: Familiarize yourself with the rules surrounding security deposits to ensure fair treatment.

By adhering to these obligations and restrictions, landlords can maintain a legal and respectful relationship with their tenants, and tenants can better understand their rights and protections under Arkansas law.

Frequently Asked Questions about Unlawful Detainer in Arkansas

When it comes to unlawful detainer in Arkansas, there are a lot of questions that both tenants and landlords might have. Let’s break down some of the most common questions in simple language.

What constitutes an unlawful detainer?

An unlawful detainer happens when someone stays in a place without the right to do so. In Arkansas, this can happen if you:

  • Stay after your lease ends,
  • Don’t pay rent on time,
  • Break rules of your lease,
  • Damage the property,
  • Do something illegal on the property.

The law sees all these actions as reasons a landlord can ask a court to make you leave.

How can tenants defend against an eviction notice?

If you get an eviction notice, don’t panic. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Read the notice carefully. It should tell you why you’re being evicted and how much time you have to fix the issue or leave.
  2. Try to solve the problem. If it’s about unpaid rent, try to pay it. If it’s another lease violation, see if you can correct it.
  3. Talk to your landlord. Sometimes, communication can solve problems before they get bigger.
  4. Seek legal help. You can call 1-800-9-LAW-AID to get free legal advice. They can help you understand your rights and what steps you can take.
  5. Respond to the lawsuit. If your landlord files an unlawful detainer lawsuit, you’ll get a summons to court. You have five days to respond. If you don’t, you could be evicted without a chance to tell your side.

Every situation is unique, so getting advice for your specific case is important.

What are the consequences of a landlord performing a self-help eviction?

In Arkansas, a landlord cannot just throw you out, change the locks, shut off your utilities, or remove your belongings without a court order. These actions are considered “self-help” evictions and are illegal.

If a landlord tries this, they could face legal consequences. As a tenant, you have the right to:

  • Stay in your home until a court says otherwise.
  • Have utilities and access as normal.
  • Seek legal help to stop these actions.
  • Possibly get damages (money) for the trouble caused.

If you face a self-help eviction, contact an attorney or local police immediately.

Understanding your rights and responsibilities, whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, is crucial in handling unlawful detainer situations properly. If you’re unsure, seeking legal advice is always a good step to ensure you’re following the law and protecting your rights.

By keeping these FAQs in mind, both tenants and landlords can navigate the complexities of unlawful detainer in Arkansas with more confidence and understanding. The goal is to resolve disputes fairly and legally, keeping everyone’s best interests in mind.


Navigating the complexities of unlawful detainer in Arkansas can seem daunting, whether you’re a tenant facing eviction or a landlord seeking to reclaim your property. It’s a process filled with legal intricacies and requires a keen understanding of both rights and obligations. That’s where we come in.

At Weekender Management, we specialize in property management with a keen focus on short-term rentals. Our expertise isn’t just about managing properties; it’s about ensuring that both landlords and tenants navigate the legal landscape of real estate with ease and confidence.

Property management is more than just handling day-to-day operations. It’s about safeguarding your investment and ensuring that every action taken is within the bounds of the law. This includes understanding the ins and outs of unlawful detainer in Arkansas and ensuring that eviction processes, if necessary, are carried out correctly and fairly.

For those involved in short-term rentals, the stakes are even higher. The dynamic nature of short-term leasing means more frequent tenant turnovers and, consequently, a greater need for awareness and adherence to eviction laws and tenant rights. Our team at Weekender Management is well-versed in these challenges and offers comprehensive solutions to protect your property rights while maximizing your investment’s potential.

We understand that each property and situation is unique. That’s why we offer personalized service tailored to your specific needs, whether you’re a first-time Airbnb host or a seasoned short-term rental veteran. Our goal is to simplify property management, allowing you to focus on what’s important — enjoying the rewards of your investment.

In the journey of property management and dealing with unlawful detainer in Arkansas, knowledge is power. By partnering with Weekender Management, you’re not just getting a property manager; you’re getting a dedicated ally committed to navigating the legal, financial, and operational aspects of your rental business.

Let us help you unlock the true potential of your short-term rental business. Together, we’ll ensure that your venture is not just successful, but also compliant, stress-free, and rewarding. Discover how we can redefine property management excellence for you. Visit our service page to learn more and take the first step towards securing and maximizing your property investment.

In conclusion, whether you’re dealing with an unlawful detainer in Arkansas or looking to optimize your short-term rental business, you don’t have to navigate these waters alone. Weekender Management is here to guide you every step of the way, ensuring that your property not only meets legal standards but also thrives in today’s competitive market.