by Max Brantley
It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. At least that is what the Grinch said with his epiphany of Christmas cheer. Unfortunately, for 100 families that live in the Alexander Apartment complex in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Grinch that stole Christmas has not had such a change of heart. For months, their landlord has been warned about the horrible living conditions that the tenants suffer. Tenants and their advocates have sued landlord Jason Bolden on multiple occasions.
On Tuesday, December 22, the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, Legal Aid of Arkansas, and the Consumer Protection Clinic at the William H. Bowen School of Law intervened in a landlord-tenant lawsuit on behalf of tenants of Alexander Apartments and Arkansas Community Organizations. Tenants are being made to vacate the property with only seven days’ notice. This is also occurring over the Christmas holiday when many moving companies, storage facilities, and other businesses will be closed. The tenants ask to remain in their apartments until a hearing can occur, to withhold rent until Alexander Apartments remedies the code violations, and to be refunded for January rent that has already been paid. Regarding the lawsuit, Legal Aid of Arkansas attorney Megan Dauksch noted, “We are doing everything in our power to make sure that these families have safe and healthy homes for the holidays.”
Last week the Little Rock Fire Department Programs Code Enforcement Officers conducted a safety inspection of the complex. The City officials noted code violations, including “exposed wiring, evidence of raw sewage, absent and non-working smoke alarms, appearance of mold, carcass of a cat, water settling on the roof, plumbing and mechanical issues[.]”
Yesterday, the LRFD sent a letter to Bolden demanding that all tenants vacate the property by Monday, December 28. Last night, the City issued a notice to vacate to the tenants. One tenant received the notice to vacate her home just days after giving birth. One disabled tenant moved in just three weeks ago and has been forced to warm her apartment with a gas stove because the landlord refuses to fix her heating unit. The City only provided the notice in English, forcing many Spanish-speaking tenants to gather information about what was happening from other tenants.
Bolden filed a Verified Complaint and Motion for Temporary Restraining Order on behalf of Alexander Apartments, LLC, against the City of Little Rock. Bolden has requested that the City allow tenants to remain on the property until a hearing can be held on the matter.
Legal Aid of Arkansas and the Center for Arkansas Legal Services will continue offering help to low-income tenants experiencing issues with their landlords. Tenants can visit the Contact Form on the Arkansas legal aid website at www.arlegalservices.org/contactusevictions. They can also apply for free legal help by calling 800-9 LAW AID (800-952-9243) Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Tenants who call for help should specifically mention that they are calling about an eviction issue or housing issue. In certain counties, tenants can also apply online: www.arlegalservices.org/applyonline.
Legal Aid of Arkansas and the Center for Arkansas Legal Services are non-profit organizations that provide free legal services to low-income Arkansans with civil legal problems, including foreclosure, consumer issues, housing, help for victims of domestic abuse, and representation in public benefits. With 17 offices staffed by more than 50 attorneys throughout the state, plus a volunteer pool of more than 1,400 attorneys, legal aid services benefited more than 30,000 low-income people and the elderly with their critical legal needs annually. However, more than 722,000 people in Arkansas live at or below 125 percent of the poverty line, and thousands of those Arkansans in need are turned away due to lack of resources. Learn more at www.arlegalservices.org.