FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — In the aftermath of a Fort Smith apartment fire that killed three, investigators confirmed they didn’t find evidence of a smoke detector in the remnants. The incident brought about discussions concerning landlord-tenant laws, specifically smoke detector elements.
State Sen. Greg Leding (D) has sponsored tenant-protection bills, including ones with smoke detector provisions, throughout the last decade. He said there’s a recently-passed law requiring new construction to install detectors, but it doesn’t affect landlords whose properties were built before the law went into effect.
“The last several sessions in the legislature, we’ve tried to pass some meaningful reform to landlord-tenant law, and part of the thing would include smoke detectors,” Leding said. “It would require landlords to provide functioning smoke detectors. The Arkansas Realtors Association has managed to beat back that legislation each time.”
Angie Johnson is the Arkansas Realtors Association president, and she responded to the Fort Smith fire and criticisms with a statement:
“First and foremost, on behalf of all our members, the Arkansas REALTORS® Association (ARA) expresses our deepest sympathy to the loved ones of the family that tragically lost their lives in a fire in Fort Smith. Officers and other members of ARA worked for many hours during the recent legislative session, as they have for many years, to establish laws that protect both tenants and landlords. ARA was very proud to support a final draft of a landlord-tenant bill that was the result of numerous meetings between various interest groups. Unfortunately, several law school professors asked the sponsor not to run the final draft of the bill because it did not include all the provisions of their initial draft.
In regard to smoke detectors, tenants would have been provided all the same rights of any homeowner under the bill. The draft specifically stated ‘the landlord shall provide and maintain in good working order access to electricity with wiring and equipment that conform to housing, fire, and health codes at the time of installation’ and the bill further stated ‘a rental agreement shall not prohibit a tenant from installing one (1) or more smoke detectors in the premises without permission of the landlord.’ There were many additional provisions in the bill that would have provided good protection for tenants.”
The next legislative session is in 2021, so any changes in the law would be made in that session.