Alabama Landlord Tenant Law and Regulations
How much can I charge for rent?
Alabama does not restrict the amount of rent a Landlord is permitted to charge. Therefore, a landlord may charge whatever he feels necessary. Additionally, the state of Alabama has not established rent control or stabilization.
May I charge an application fee, late rent charge or a returned payment fee?
Reasonable cost should always be kept in mind when instituting any charges. Although there are no limits placed on the amount a landlord can charge for the above stated fees, landlords should always execute caution and fairness.
How do I handle a security deposit?
The security deposit may not exceed an amount greater than one month’s rent. The collection of the last month’s rent in advance; in addition to the security deposit is not permissible. Alabama Landlord Tenant statutes contain no specific criteria regarding the acceptance of a non-refundable pet deposit, key or lock deposit. The absence of a statute or rule regarding “other” deposits does not necessarily signify that it’s an accepted practice. Landlords should keep this in mind when deciding to use miscellaneous deposits in addition to the security deposit.
Do I need a separate bank account for the security deposit?
There are no specific regulations in Alabama regarding the placement of security deposits. However, it’s good practice to keep a tenant’s security deposit separate from the landlord’s personal finances. A landlord is not required to pay interest on a security deposit.
After my tenant has moved, how long do I have to send the security deposit back?
Landlord’s must return the security deposit or provide accounting for the deductions taken from the deposit within 60 days of lease termination. When deductions are made to a security deposit, normal wear and tear is usually excluded, while excess damage may be deducted.
What are the rules for ending an Alabama lease agreement?
A fixed term lease is a rental agreement that contains a beginning and ending date. In this circumstance, the lease agreement simply ends on the date specified within the contract. If the lease agreement specifies a notice; under those circumstances, the notice that is spelled out in the lease would be followed. A periodic lease is a lease that continues from period to period (i.e. month to month). Periodic leases continue until either a landlord or tenant gives notice of at least 30 days. If the lease agreement is based upon week to week periods then only 7 days notice is required. If no lease is used, it is considered a verbal lease agreement; the rules for a periodic lease would then apply.
Are there circumstances where I am required to release a tenant from a lease agreement?
A landlord may be forced to release a tenant from a contractual agreement when the dwelling unit or premise is damaged and/or destroyed by fire or casualty not caused by the tenant, deeming the rental property unlivable. Under these circumstances, a tenant may immediately vacate the premise and notify the landlord in writing within 14 days of the tenant's intention to terminate the rental agreement.
My tenant was supposed to be out of the apartment and he is still there. What do I do?
If a tenant remains in possession without the landlord's consent after expiration of the rental agreement or its termination, the landlord may bring an action for possession. If the tenant's holdover is willful and not in good faith, the landlord may also recover an amount equal to but not more than 3 month's periodic rent or the actual damages sustained by the landlord, whichever is greater, along with reasonable attorney’s fees.
How much notice do I have to give a tenant in order to evict them?
The first step towards eviction is giving proper notice to your tenant regarding the violation. When a tenant has not paid rent, the landlord must give at least a 7 day notice. If the problem consists of a lease violation such as the tenant being a nuisance, a 7 day notice is also required. This 7 day notice is a notice to cure. This means that the tenant must fix the problem and stop the behavior or their lease rights will be terminated. These warning notices must be served to the tenant by either hand delivery or by posting somewhere on the property. If the posting method is used, then notice must also be mailed within one day of the posting.
My tenant has not paid his rent and I served him notice. What do I do next?
Go to the District court in the county of which the property is located. You will file a court action referred to as an unlawful detainer, filed with the clerk of court. Check with the appropriate court as there are fees involved. The Landlord/Plaintiff may sue for possession of property and for money damages in the same action. It is important to include a copy of the “Notice to Tenant” when filing an original action. The Unlawful Detainer Complaint must be served by certified mail or personal service by either the Sheriff's office or a private process server.
My tenant wants to pay his rent but I have already filed in court. Can I accept the payment and still proceed with eviction?
Yes, the acceptance of unpaid rent after expiration of a termination notice is permitted, however this does not constitute a waiver of the termination. Therefore, a landlord may still move forward and seek possession and the tenant’s removal.
I have been assigned a court date, must I go?
Once a court date is set, a landlord should always arrive prepared. In many cases tenant’s often fail to appear in court, ultimately favoring the landlord. Regardless of the assumption that a tenant may not come to the court hearing, it is important to have all your ducks in a row. Come prepared and bring proof of rents received, such as a current rental ledger along with all correspondence including letters, notices and emails. If you have dates of phone conversations, they can be important as well. Proof is especially important in cases that involve nuisance or other lease violations.
I won in court! Now what happens?
A Writ of Restitution or Possession cannot be requested until after the filing of a post-judgment motion and the appeal time has expired. This would be fourteen days from the date of the judgment in the District Court. The landlord must seek a writ of restitution or possession that will order the sheriff to physically remove the tenants and the tenant’s personal property.
What do I do with the tenant’s personal items that are left behind?
The landlord has no duty to store the tenant's property if abandoned for more than 14 days. After 14 days have passed, you can either discard everything or donate it to a charity.
How long does it usually take for eviction?
It depends, but could take approximately 4-6 weeks to obtain possession.
How can I tell if my tenant has “skipped” out of the apartment?
When a tenant moves out without proper notice it is considered abandonment. Although the Alabama landlord tenant statutes do not define the term abandonment, there are clues to look for. A landlord should probably consider whether the property appears to be lived in, whether there are utilities and/or whether the tenant has removed a significant amount of their possessions from the unit. Check for food in the cabinets or refrigerator. Usually if there is none, this can be pretty significant in determining abandonment. Take pictures and save them as proof for court, just in case.
If a landlord finds that a tenant has abandoned the rental property, the landlord can mail a notice of abandonment to the tenant's last known address as well as post a notice of abandonment on the door of the rental property. Five days after mailing the abandonment notice to the tenant and posting it upon the door of the rental unit, the landlord can change the locks and retake possession of the rental property.
After the landlord has retaken possession of the rental property, he/she must hold
abandoned possessions for ten (10) days. Thereafter, they may be sold or discarded. The tenant is responsible to pay for storage and moving costs in order to claim the held possessions.
What must I do to inspect my property? Do I have to notify the tenant?
A landlord may not abuse the right of access or use it to harass the tenant. Emergency situations do warrant entry, however the landlord should give the tenant at least 2 days' notice of the landlord's intent to enter. Under normal circumstances, a landlord may enter at reasonable times only. Posting of a notice on the primary entrance to the residence stating the intended time and purpose of the entry is a permitted method for the purpose of the landlord's right of access to the premises.
Do I have the right to enforce no smoking in my rental property?
A landlord may establish a “No Smoking” policy by providing so in the Lease.
Disclosure: The information provided herein is intended as a general discussion of legal issues concerning landlord tenant law. Information provided is not legal advice or a legal opinion, and it is recommended that the reader seek independent counsel for any specific issue.