What are my options when a tenant is consistently late on rent?
In Arkansas, a lease may be terminated by the landlord giving at least 14 days' notice. However, if the rent is 5 days past the due date, the law deems the tenant to have notice of the landlord's right to bring eviction proceedings. Eviction proceedings are begun by filing with an affidavit of eviction that specifies the grounds for the eviction in the local court that handles eviction matters. I suggest calling the local clerk of courts to determine the appropriate court for such filings.
Generally, terms that are not included in the agreement cannot be legally enforced. However, it is possible to draft a new agreement when the term of the current rental period expires, so that the new lease is effective when the lease is renewed. When a rental period isn't specified, it is typically interpreted as a month-to-month tenancy.
Late fees may vary greatly. Generally, the fee will be enforceable as long as it isn't unconscionable, as such matters are subject to contractual negotiation between the parties. I suggest contacting local landlords to gauge practices in your local area.
The following are AR statutes:
18-17-701. Noncompliance with rental agreement — Failure to pay rent — Removal of evicted tenant's personal property.
(a) Except as provided in this chapter, if there is a noncompliance by the tenant with the rental agreement, the landlord may deliver a written notice to the tenant specifying the acts and omissions constituting the breach and that the rental agreement will terminate upon a date not less than fourteen (14) days after receipt of the notice, if the breach is not remedied in fourteen (14) days. The rental agreement terminates as provided in the notice except that if the breach is remediable by repairs or otherwise and the tenant adequately remedies the breach before the date specified in the notice.
(b) If rent is unpaid when due and the tenant fails to pay rent within five (5) days from the date due, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement.
(c) (1) Except as provided in this chapter, the landlord may recover actual damages and obtain injunctive relief, judgments, or evictions in circuit court or district court without posting bond for any noncompliance by the tenant with the rental agreement.
(2) If the tenant's noncompliance is willful other than nonpayment of rent, the landlord may recover reasonable attorney's fees, provided the landlord is represented by an attorney.
(3) If the tenant's nonpayment of rent is not in good faith, the landlord is entitled to reasonable attorney's fees, provided the landlord is represented by an attorney.
18-17-901. Grounds for eviction of tenant.
(a) A landlord or his or her agent may begin eviction proceedings against a tenant when:
(1) The tenant fails or refuses to pay the rent when due or when demanded;
(2) The term of tenancy or occupancy has ended; or
(3) The terms or conditions of the lease have been violated.
(b) For residential rental agreements, nonpayment of rent within five (5) days of the date due constitutes legal notice to the tenant that the landlord has the right to begin eviction proceedings under this chapter.
18-17-902. Eviction proceeding.
(a) (1) Upon the occurrence of the grounds for eviction of a tenant under this subchapter, a landlord or his or her agent may file with a court having jurisdiction an affidavit of eviction that specifies the grounds for the eviction.
(2) The fee for filing an affidavit of eviction shall be twenty-five dollars ($25.00).
(b) Upon the filing by the landlord or his or her agent or attorney of an affidavit of eviction, the court shall issue an order requiring the tenant to vacate the occupied premises or to show cause why he or she should not be evicted before the court within ten (10) days after service of a copy of the order upon the tenant.