Eviction is a legal process that a landlord must use to evict a tenant. Most evictions in Arkansas use the “unlawful detainer” eviction method. In an unlawful detainer case, a landlord alleges a tenant is unlawfully staying at a property without the right to do so. The landlord must file a case in circuit court to get a court order to evict the tenant. Tenants may qualify for free legal aid from the Center for Arkansas Legal Services or Legal Aid of Arkansas.
See the Interactive Form regarding "Answer and Objection for Unlawful Detainer" at the bottom of this guide.
Tenants can only be evicted through an “unlawful detainer” case for one of these reasons:
Staying on the property after the lease has expired or “holding over”;
Failing to pay rent and staying on the property after getting a notice to vacate within 3 days;
Staying on rental property after getting the time allowed under an eviction notice or written demand from someone having the legal right to the property or their attorney;
Failing to keep the property in safe, healthy, or habitable condition; OR
Letting the property become a nuisance or hub of criminal activity.
However, Tenants must get at least 30 days’ written notice to vacate before an eviction for nonpayment of rent if they live in a property funded by the federal government under the CARES Act. This includes income-based housing or housing with a mortgage through the federal government. This applies to approximately 28-46% of rental housing in the United States.
Tenants in most income-based housing funded by the federal government have more rights such as protection from “holdover” evictions after a lease expires and informal hearings that must happen before a landlord can file an eviction case in court.
A landlord can file an unlawful detainer case against the tenant in Circuit Court if the tenant has not left the home by the required amount of time. The case has three parts: pre-hearing, possession hearing, and trial.
The tenant must be served with a complaint, affidavit, summons, and notice of intent to issue writ of possession. The tenant only has 5 days (excluding Sundays and legal holidays) to file an objection or written response with the court or the tenant will lose their home by default. The tenant also needs to file an “answer” within 30 days’ of being served. Arkansas currently requires a bond to be paid by landlords and tenants with tenants paying the unpaid rent to the court registry at the time they file an objection. However, the requirements to post bond are rarely enforced and will not be required after July 28, 2021.
If the tenant does not file an objection, the landlord will get a “writ of possession” or court order for the local sheriff’s department to evict the tenant after 24 hours’ notice. The landlord and sheriff’s department must move the tenant’s leftover property into storage until trial. In practice, many cases settle at this point and the landlord allows the tenant to pick the property up at a later date.
If the tenant files an objection, the court will set the case for a hearing on possession or who gets to live in the home.
However, the case can move forward. A tenant who loses the first hearing has 5 days to ask the Court to “set adequate security” or an amount of money the tenant has to pay to stay in the home until trial.
2. Possession Hearing:
The court schedules a hearing on possession. The landlord presents evidence that they have the right to evict the tenant. The tenant has the chance to raise defenses. If the tenant wins, the tenant gets to remain in the home until trial.
If the landlord wins, the landlord gets a “writ of possession.” The tenant will be removed from the home by the local sheriff’s department after 24 hours and the tenant’s leftover property must be placed into storage until trial. A tenant who loses the hearing on possession can ask the court to set “adequate security” or an amount of money that the tenant must pay to remain in the home until trial. This is usually the amount of unpaid rent the tenant owes.
Almost all unlawful detainer cases settle before trial. However, they can go to trial after the landlord and tenant get enough time to engage in discovery. The tenant may file counterclaims or sue the landlord for related issues within the same case. All of these issues would be addressed at trial.
If the landlord wins at trial, the landlord can get a writ of possession and “judgment” or court order that the tenant must pay the landlord for damages such as unpaid rent, attorney’s fees, and court costs. Judgments can harm tenants through wage garnishments, denials of credit, seizure of the tenants’ personal property, and other issues. The court can give the landlord some of the tenant’s personal property from storage to pay off some or all of the judgment.
If the tenant was removed from the home while the case was pending but wins at trial, the tenant can recover damages or money from the landlord for the loss of housing while the case was pending. If the tenant still lives in the home and wins at trial, the tenant would have the right to remain in the home.
The landlord must go through the courts. The landlord may not take matters into their own hands by changing the locks, shutting off utilities, or removing the tenants’ property without a court order. These are considered “self-help” evictions and are illegal. Tenants facing eviction can apply for free legal aid at 1-800-950-5817 (Center for Arkansas Legal Services) or 1-800-952-9243 (Legal Aid of Arkansas). It is best to apply for legal aid early in the process before any court dates.
This free interactive form will create an Answer and Objection for Unlawful Detainer. At the end of the interview, you'll be able to download all the documents that you need to file with the court. The automated packet includes instructions about the process.
You should not use these forms unless: