Arkansas Security Deposit Laws in 2024

Introduction to Arkansas’s Security Deposit Laws

Arkansas law provides certain protections and obligations for both landlords and tenants when it comes to security deposits for residential rental properties. The state's security deposit statute outlines the maximum amounts landlords can charge, how deposits must be handled, allowable deductions, and the process for returning deposits after a tenant moves out.

The law aims to create a fair balance between allowing landlords to protect their property interests while also ensuring renters are not taken advantage of or subject to abuse of security deposits. Key provisions include limiting security deposits to no more than a set number of month's rent, requiring deposits be held in separate accounts, mandating itemized deductions within 60 days, and establishing dispute resolution procedures.

Renters in Arkansas have legally enforceable rights when it comes to security deposits. Understanding those rights is important in order to avoid deposit disputes or loss. This guide will explain the key aspects of Arkansas security deposit law and provide renters with information on their protections.

How Much Can a Landlord Charge for a Security Deposit in Arkansas?

Arkansas law places limits on the maximum security deposit amount a landlord can charge tenants. For unfurnished rental units, landlords are permitted to collect a security deposit of up to 2 months' rent. For furnished rental units, landlords can charge up to 3 months' rent as a security deposit.  

There are no limits under Arkansas law on the amount a landlord can charge as a deposit for property damages, also sometimes called a pet deposit. However, these deposits are different than a general security deposit, and they are intended to cover any damages caused specifically by pets or to protect certain property features beyond normal wear and tear.

The security deposit maximums apply statewide, including in major cities like Little Rock, Fayetteville, Fort Smith and Springdale. Landlords cannot impose security deposit requirements that exceed the legal limits. Charging more than allowed could potentially open the landlord up to penalties or legal action.

Handling and Treatment of Deposits

In Arkansas, landlords are required to hold security deposits in a separate bank account and cannot mix deposits with their own funds. Landlords are not obligated to pay interest on security deposits to tenants. 

Within 60 days after a tenant moves out, the landlord must provide the tenant with an itemized list of any deductions from the security deposit, along with a refund of any remaining deposit amount. This written notice should detail the specific reasons for any deductions, including any charges for damages, cleaning, unpaid rent, or other fees. If the landlord fails to provide this itemization and return the deposit balance within 60 days, they may forfeit the right to withhold any portion of the deposit.

Allowable Deductions from the Security Deposit

Landlords in Arkansas have the right to deduct money from a tenant's security deposit for a few specific reasons, including:

Unpaid rent

If a tenant moves out with rent still owed, the landlord can deduct the amount of unpaid rent from the deposit. This covers both rent owed for previous months as well as rent still due for the remaining period of the lease if the tenant breaks the lease early.

Damage beyond normal wear and tear

Landlords can deduct costs to repair or replace any parts of the property damaged by tenants or their guests that exceed normal wear and tear. This includes things like stained carpeting, broken appliances, holes in walls, etc.

Utility bills left unpaid by the tenant

If a tenant moves out with unpaid utility bills that were in their name, the landlord can deduct these costs from the deposit if they get stuck paying them.

Costs of re-renting the unit after early lease termination

If a tenant breaks a lease early, landlords can deduct any costs incurred with re-renting the unit like advertising fees or lost rent from vacancy.

The key is that deductions must be directly related to amounts owed by the tenant or damage/losses caused by the tenant exceeding normal wear and tear. Normal wear and tear cannot be deducted.

Definition of Normal Wear and Tear in Arkansas

Normal wear and tear refers to the natural deterioration that occurs from regular use and aging. Landlords in Arkansas cannot deduct from the security deposit for normal wear and tear.

What qualifies as normal wear and tear? Some examples include:

  • Faded paint and minor scuffs on walls. Over time, walls can get light scratches or markings just from residents going about their daily lives. As long as these aren't excessive holes and damage beyond a few minor marks, this is normal.
  • Worn carpeting from regular use. Carpets will gradually show foot traffic patterns and some matting down, especially in high traffic areas. Some spots may get more worn down just from residents walking over them daily.
  • A few small nail holes for hanging pictures. It's reasonable for tenants to hang some decorative items on walls, which may result in a couple small holes. As long as these are limited and can be easily filled, they are considered minor.
  • Dirtiness that can be cleaned with one regular cleaning. Apartments will naturally get dusty and dirty from residents living there. As long as the unit doesn't require deep or extensive cleaning, regular cleaning should restore it to rental conditions.

So things like slightly faded paint, some worn carpeting, small nail holes, and expected dust/dirt are reasonable as normal wear and tear in Arkansas. Landlords cannot deduct for these things when returning the security deposit. The key is that the deterioration is minor and within reason from regular use.

Limits on Charging for Painting and Carpets

Landlords in Arkansas cannot deduct from the security deposit for painting simply because walls have faded or discolored over time. Faded paint and minor scuffs are considered normal wear and tear. The tenant is only responsible for more significant damage like large holes in drywall or major stains and markings on the walls that require repainting.

For carpets and flooring, a landlord can deduct reasonable charges for professional steam cleaning or shampooing if the carpets are badly soiled or stained beyond normal use. But they cannot deduct for routine carpet cleaning or an arbitrary carpet cleaning fee if the carpets are only lightly worn. Normal wear and tear for carpets includes some staining, matting, and crushing from standard use over time.

Returning the Security Deposit in Arkansas  

Landlords in Arkansas have 60 days after a tenant moves out to return the security deposit. This includes vacant and abandoned units.

Within the 60 days, the landlord must send the tenant an itemized list of any deductions from the deposit, along with the remaining balance. If there are no deductions, the full deposit amount should be returned.

The itemized list should clearly explain the reasons for each deduction, along with dollar amounts. Things like cleaning fees, unpaid rent, utilities, repairs and damages can be deducted if properly documented. 

If the landlord fails to send the deposit or itemized deduction list within 60 days, the tenant can demand a full refund of the entire deposit amount.

If a tenant moves without providing their new address, the landlord must make a reasonable effort to locate the tenant to return the deposit. This may include contacting references or emergency contacts. 

Unclaimed security deposits can be disposed of by the landlord after 1 year of diligent attempts to locate the former tenant. Disposal could include absorbing the funds into their operating accounts.

Disputing Improper Security Deposit Deductions

If you feel your landlord improperly withheld or deducted from your security deposit in Arkansas, you have options for recourse. Here are some steps to take:

Send a demand letter within 30 days

Within 30 days of receiving your deposit with improper deductions, send a formal demand letter to your landlord. Detail what you believe was improperly deducted and request the disputed amount be returned to you within 7-10 days. Send via certified mail. 

File a claim in small claims court after 30 days

If your landlord does not return the disputed amount after receiving your demand letter, you can file a claim in Arkansas small claims court. The limit is $5,000 in small claims court. Gather evidence like photos and written communication.

If you need help navigating the process, free legal aid organizations in Arkansas may be able to provide assistance with security deposit disputes for low income residents. They can review your case and draft letters.

Disputing improper deductions takes some documentation and effort on your part, but this process can help you recover wrongfully withheld deposit money under Arkansas law. Consult local tenant advocacy groups for more help.

Other Key Arkansas Renter's Rights

Arkansas renters have additional rights beyond security deposit laws that provide important protections.

Protection from Discrimination

Landlords in Arkansas cannot refuse to rent, charge higher rents, or treat tenants differently based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, national origin, or familial status. Discrimination in housing based on these protected characteristics is illegal.

Right to Habitable Living Conditions

Landlords in Arkansas are required to provide and maintain habitable living conditions for rental units. This includes providing hot and cold running water, adequate heat and cooling, pest control, and maintenance of essential appliances and facilities. 

Advance Notice Required for Entry  

Landlords must provide tenants with at least 1 day advance notice before entering rental units, except in cases of emergency. This helps protect tenant privacy and peaceful enjoyment of the property. Landlords cannot abuse access rights or enter without permission.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the deposit law in Arkansas?

The Arkansas security deposit law allows landlords to charge up to 2 months' rent for an unfurnished unit or up to 3 months' rent for a furnished unit. Landlords must hold deposits in a separate bank account and return them within 60 days of move-out along with an itemized list of any deductions.

How long does a landlord have to return a security deposit in Arkansas?

60 days.

What are my renters rights in Arkansas?

As a renter in Arkansas, you have the right to limits on security deposits, habitable living conditions, protection from discrimination, advance notice for entry, and more under Arkansas law.

What is considered normal wear and tear in Arkansas?

Normal wear and tear that cannot be deducted from the security deposit includes minor scuffs, small nail holes from hanging pictures, faded paint, worn carpeting from regular use, and dirtiness that can be cleaned with one regular cleaning.

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