Conway Renter Says Landlord Tried to Illegally Force Him Out

Until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Conway resident Milton Light was making good money working as a coiled tubing operator in the oil fields near Odessa, Texas.

His hours were cut in March due to the pandemic and was eventually laid off April 3, He told his landlord in late March that he would have trouble paying April rent because of the sudden loss in income.

Toward the end of the month, the landlord, Genai Walker-Macklin, told Light that he would have to move out within less than a week. “I’m being nice to let you get your items out,” she said in an April 3 text message. 

In the weeks that followed, Walker-Macklin did not obtain an eviction order from the courts. Instead, according to documents filed in Faulkner County Circuit Court, she had the locks changed on the house at 1685 Jackson Drive, attempted to shut the utilities off, and tried to have Light’s car towed.

Eventually, on April 30, Walker-Macklin filed a lawsuit in circuit court seeking a civil eviction, known as an unlawful detainer complaint. The case is ongoing and does not yet have a hearing set. 

Kendell Lewellen, managing attorney for the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, said the legal aid organization has heard increased complaints about the practice since the COVID-19 emergency began. 

“We’re seeing an increase in evictions where landlords don’t use the legal process at all, they just come in and change someone’s locks. We used to see maybe one or two of those a month, but since the pandemic, we’re seeing one or two a week,” she said.

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