Governor addresses coronavirus-related eviction worries during Monday presser


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — With April 1 right around the corner, Arkansas is dealing with record unemployment in the state. Some people said they worry about paying rent. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) addressed the issue Monday, boosting the current structure while declining to say he’d put a halt on evictions at this time.

“If we see problems out there or unfair behavior, then we will take another look at that,” Hutchinson said. “I think the marketplace is working as it should.”

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced a moratorium on evictions during the state’s emergency declaration. Essentially, nobody can be evicted during the outbreak unless they’re deemed “dangerous”. Landlords and tenants are expected to work out a repayment plan. The purpose of this was to quell a possible spike in homelessness.

Marcus and Rebecca Lane are Fayetteville renters. The COVID-19 outbreak has taken away jobs associated with their cleaning business and caused fear they wouldn’t be able to pay rent April 1.

“I have faith that God will provide,” Marcus Lane said.

The Lanes know there are renters much worse off than they are. Some risk eviction since they can’t afford to pay rent after losing their jobs.

“You want people quarantined,” Marcus Lane said. You don’t want people out in the street spreading disease or whatever else around that they might have because they’re homeless and they’re doing their best to provide for their families.”

Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R) is a landlord and said it’s important to remember most property managers have bills to pay, too. They also have taxes and insurance.

While there’s no law requiring landlords to pay for maintenance or repairs, the majority of them in Arkansas do, Lundstrum said, which are other expenditures. When rent money isn’t coming in, nothing can be paid for. Most landlords work with tenants who’re in a bad spot if there’s simply some communication, she said.

“Landlords still have to make their mortgage payments,” Lundstrum said. “You don’t want [a renter] to get in a big financial hole, then we come out of it, and they’ve got a big monster of a bill waiting for them. That’s not gonna help them out, either.”

To prevent eviction, renters should communicate with their landlords early, Lundstrum said. Often, compromises can be worked out, like half-month’s rent or deadline pushbacks.

“No one wants anyone homeless,” Lundstrum said. “We just want happy customers. Renters just need to communicate when they are in a pinch so we can help.”

The Lanes aren’t asking for handouts, and they don’t shy away from the possibility of repayment systems once the pandemic subsides, they said. They just don’t want to add a homelessness problem to a pandemic, proverbial gasoline to a fire.

“I’m an advocate right now for there being no evictions, for there to be a full halt on evictions, let alone late fees,” Rebecca Lane said. “That just compounds the problem that we’re already facing.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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