Arkansas is the only state to not require rental properties to meet health and safety standards. On Wednesday the House Insurance and Commerce Committee declined to advance a bill guaranteeing habitability.
Republican Representative Robin Lundstrum was in the majority casting votes against the legislation.
“I’m personally offended by this bill. I’m a landlord.” The Representative from Springdale went on to note that current rules are to her economic advantage, “the reason I go out and find properties is when another landlord who hasn’t done their job, and yes that happens in every field, I go buy that property and fix it back up and put it back up on the market. That’s what a competition, capitalistic process, that we have in Arkansas…and for a lot of small business owners in Arkansas I find this is about as big brother as you can get.”
A fellow northwest Arkansas Representative, Democrat Greg Leding of Fayetteville, sponsored the bill.
“A third of Arkansans, 983,000 of them, rent their home. I think they deserve to know that they’re renting a habitable home and I would appreciate, though I certainly do not expect, a good vote,” said Leding as laughter carried over the room.
Debate on the bill lasted over an hour and included several members of the public. Renter Amy Bradley-Hole was among those speaking in favor.
“All the bill does is ensure that things like running water, and electricity, and a door that locks, and a way to escape your bedroom in the case of a fire are not luxuries that are only reserved for home owners. It allows people whether they are paying $2,000 or $200 in rent to move if they find themselves in a situation that is unsafe or dangerous or unhealthy,” said Bradley-Hole.
Lundstrum contended Leding’s bill added an unneeded layer of regulation.
“For somebody to come in and tell me what’s hot water? How hot is hot or what color? Or operable this or operable that?” Lundstrum said rental issues are best sorted by what she describes as free market principles, "if the customer doesn't like it the customer can leave.”
Another Springdale Republican, Senator Jon Woods co-sponsored the measure with Rep. Leding. Both Woods and Leding unsuccessfully tried to pass a similar provision during the 2013 legislative session.