- In some states, including Arkansas, tenant law highly favors the property owners. There is plenty of room for advocacy for those who rent substandard and unsafe properties. From May 2010.
My pastoral efforts take me to some interesting places – jails, emergency rooms, treetops and, of course, homes. (And these are all places I would rather be than in my office, but that’s another story.)
I learn a lot about a family by visiting their home. How they live, decorate, and organize tells me something that a conversation in the sanctuary may not reveal. Pictures on the walls, in-home pets and the type of furniture in the living room tells me about their family, their love for animals and how they like to relax. I notice the magazines on the coffee table, how much a room is arranged around a TV set and if the exercise equipment is only used for hanging clothes. Yes, I can learn a lot about a family by visiting their home.
But sometimes I learn something else. Many families rent their homes. And I am surprised at what I see. I have seen tenants with children living with torn and rotten carpet. I have seen unsafe stairways and missing handrails. I have seen rented homes and apartments with leaking roofs. I have seen pest infestations, holes in the floor and broken appliances. I have seen people paying good money to live where doors do not close properly, yard debris remains from previous tenants and windows are broken.
“Have you talked to your landlord about this?” I ask. They always answer that they have mentioned the problem to the landlord but the problem remains unaddressed. Unfortunately, Arkansas law highly favors the landlord and not the tenant. In most cases, when you rent a privately owned unit, you take it “as is” and the landlord is not obligated to do additional maintenance (government subsidized housing has different laws). Be sure to include any maintenance issues in your lease agreement!
If the property you are renting is unsafe and your landlord refuses to take action, you can contact your city building inspector to see if your landlord has violated housing codes.
So why am I talking about safe and livable rental property? Because many of the landlords in our area are church-going people who, when asked, would say they are Christians. But would a Christian rent a home or apartment to another person and ignore requests to make the property safer and more livable? Landlords, the law may support your decision to neglect your rental property, but would God? Though we may be tempted to “keep religion out of business,” the kingdom of heaven is bigger and more important than any of our daily endeavors. We are obligated to represent Christ in our relationships, recreation, driving…and even the business of renting residential property.
So tenants, you deserve a safe and comfortable place to live. And landlords, you need to rise above the law and provide your renters the dignity suitable for all God’s children.