The Full Guide on Alabama Landlord-Tenant Law 
In the heart of the Yellowhammer State, landlords and tenants must navigate a labyrinth of laws and regulations that directly impact their rights, responsibilities, and interactions. Alabama's landlord-tenant law, while comprehensive, can often be daunting.
This guide demystifies these laws, enabling landlords to safeguard their investments and cultivate robust relationships with their tenants. Similarly, it empowers tenants to assert their rights, ensuring they have a healthy and respectful living environment.
Covering an extensive range of topics from tenant screening and lease agreements, to security deposits, repairs, and evictions, this guide will be your trusted companion, helping you understand the intricacies of Alabama’s landlord-tenant laws. With these insights and in-depth references to the Alabama Code (Title 35-9A), you'll be well-equipped to navigate the legal landscape. Ready to begin? Let's dive in!
Is Alabama considered a landlord-friendly state?
Alabama is often regarded as a landlord-friendly state, a reputation it has earned due to its favorable laws for property owners. Firstly, its eviction procedures are notably streamlined, allowing landlords to reclaim their property swiftly when tenants violate lease agreements or fail to pay rent. This swift process reduces the financial burden on landlords by minimizing the duration of non-payment periods.
Secondly, there's no statutory limit on security deposits in Alabama. This provides landlords with greater financial security as they can determine the amount they deem necessary to cover potential property damage or unpaid rent.
Additionally, the absence of rent control laws gives landlords the freedom to set rental prices based on market demand without any imposed upper limit. This can lead to higher profitability, especially in areas with high rental demand.
Lastly, Alabama law grants landlords various rights to terminate leases. These include reasons such as non-payment of rent, violation of lease terms, and the expiration of a lease term. This level of flexibility helps landlords manage their properties more effectively and swiftly address issues that may arise.
What are landlord rights in Alabama?
In Alabama, landlords hold a set of authoritative rights that provide them with the leverage they need to manage their rental properties effectively:
- Collection of Rent Payments: Central to the landlord-tenant relationship is the timely payment of rent. Alabama law ensures landlords have the legal right to collect rent, securing a steady stream of income from their properties.
- Security Deposits: To protect their investment against possible property damage or unpaid rent, landlords in Alabama can require security deposits. This financial safeguard empowers landlords to maintain the quality of their property with peace of mind.
- Eviction Process: In instances of contract violations or breaches of landlord-tenant laws, landlords in Alabama have the right to initiate an official eviction process. This right allows landlords to take necessary action to ensure the respectful and lawful use of their property.
What are landlord responsibilities in Alabama?
Owning a rental property in Alabama comes with certain obligations:
- Prompt Repairs: Upon receiving notification from a tenant, landlords are obligated to undertake and complete any necessary repairs within a two-week period. This ensures the property remains habitable and well-maintained.
- Privacy Consideration: Before landlords can gain entry into the rented premises, they must provide a two-day advance notice, respecting the tenant's privacy. However, in emergency situations, immediate entry is permissible.
- Security Deposit Refunds: After a lease ends, landlords are required to refund any applicable security deposit within a 60-day timeframe, ensuring a fair and timely return of tenants' funds.
What rights do renters have in Alabama?
In Alabama, tenants are empowered with certain responsibilities that contribute to a harmonious living environment. These include:
- Maintaining Cleanliness: A primary role for tenants is ensuring their living space remains tidy and free from hazards, contributing to a safer community.
- Respecting Boundaries: Tenants are expected to live respectfully, without causing disturbance to the property or infringing on the peace and quiet of their neighbors.
- Adhering to Legal and Lease Boundaries: Abiding by all applicable laws and honoring the terms set out in their lease agreements is an important responsibility of every tenant. This includes refraining from conducting illegal activities on the property and strictly following the lease rules and regulations.
What are tenant responsibilities in Alabama?
In Alabama, tenants shoulder certain responsibilities to ensure a smooth tenancy. Key responsibilities include:
- Lease Termination Notice: Whether it's a weekly or monthly lease, tenants must provide notice before ending their lease - seven days for weekly leases, and 30 days for monthly leases.
- Paying Rent and Correcting Violations: Upon receiving a notice, tenants are allocated a seven-day period to either settle their rent, rectify a lease violation, or make the decision to vacate the premises.
- Reclaiming Abandoned Property: Any abandoned property must be claimed by tenants within a two-week timeframe, helping to avoid unnecessary complications.
Alabama landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities through the rental cycle
Alabama tenant screening laws
Landlords have the right to screen prospective tenants through application processes, background checks, and credit checks to assess their suitability as tenants.
However, to run a background check, tenant consent is required according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
There is no law that limits how much a landlord can charge for a tenant-screening report.
Rental agreement laws for Alabama
Alabama code states that rental property owners have the right to set the terms and conditions of the lease agreement, including rent amount, lease duration, pet policies, and other provisions like late fees. Both oral and written lease agreements are accepted in the state of Alabama.
Rental property owners also have the right to terminate rental agreements for reasons, such as non-payment of rent, lease violations, or expiration of the lease term, provided proper notice of seven days is given.
Tenants must abide by the terms and conditions of the lease agreement. This includes adhering to any restrictions on pets, subletting, or altering the property without prior written consent from the landlord.
When intending to vacate the rental unit at the end of the lease term or terminate the lease agreement, tenants are required to give at least a seven-day notice for weekly leases, a 30-day notice for monthly leases, or within the timeframe specified in the lease.
Find out more about what to include in your lease agreement.
Alabama security deposit laws
Landlords can only charge up to one month’s rent for security deposits, and a receipt is not required. The security deposit does not have to be stored in a separate account in Alabama. Additionally, landlords in Alabama do not have to pay interest on security deposits.
Landlords have the right to withhold a portion or all of the tenant's security deposit if there are damages beyond normal wear and tear or unpaid rent.
The security deposit must be returned within 60 days of the lease ending with an itemized statement of deductions and any remaining funds if applicable.
Landlords cannot withhold security deposits without valid reasons or in excess of the allowable deductions.
Alabama rent laws
In accordance with the terms of the lease agreement, landlords have the right to collect rent from tenants and tenants are responsible for paying the agreed-upon amount of rent on the agreed-upon due date.
If the tenant is late paying rent, Alabama landlords are not required to provide a grace period for the payment of rent before charging a late fee.
Alabama tenants cannot withhold rent, in any scenario including to enforce their rights and/or for “repair and deduct” remedies.
Alabama repair and maintenance laws
Tenants have the right to live in a rental unit that meets minimum standards of habitability, meaning the landlord is responsible for ensuring their rental property meets the minimum standards set by building and housing codes and regulations of Alabama.
After being notified by a tenant, landlords have up to 14 days to make repairs.
Tenants are also responsible for maintaining the rental unit in a clean and sanitary condition. They should ensure the premises are kept in good order, perform routine cleaning, and report any maintenance issues or damages to the landlord.
If a tenant causes damage to the rental property, landlords have the right to pursue legal action to recover the cost of repairs or other financial losses incurred as a result of the tenant's actions.
Alabama notice of entry laws
Landlords have the right to enter the rental unit for specific reasons, such as conducting repairs, inspections, or showing the property to prospective tenants, provided they give a proper two days notice to the tenant. Only in cases of an emergency can landlords enter the property without notice.
It’s important to note that landlords cannot excessively intrude upon a tenant's privacy or engage in disruptive behavior that interferes with the tenant's quiet enjoyment. This would be considered landlord harassment.
Alabama eviction laws
There are several reasons a landlord may file for eviction in Alabama. The reasons include:
- Failing to pay rent
- Lease violation
- Providing misleading or false information
- Safety violation
- Illegal activity
- The end of a lease term
But before a landlord can move forward with the eviction, they must provide a seven-day notice to pay rent, correct the violation, or quit.
What happens next depends on the tenant’s response to the lease termination notice:
- If the tenant pays rent or corrects the violation within seven days, the landlord cannot move forward with eviction.
- If the tenant fails to pay rent or correct the lease violation but abandons the property, the landlord can use their security deposit to cover the unpaid rent. If the security deposit does not cover the full rent or additional fees, the landlord can sue the tenant for the amount still owed.
- If the tenant does not pay the full rent, correct the violation, or move out, then the landlord may proceed with filing an eviction lawsuit to regain possession of the property.
It's essential to note that 'self-help' evictions – the act of forcibly removing tenants or their possessions from a rental property – are strictly prohibited. The correct legal processes must be adhered to, ensuring fair and lawful eviction procedures. Unlawful actions to evict tenants could lead to legal repercussions, so adherence to the established eviction laws is a must
Additional Alabama landlord tenant laws
Apart from regulations covering general matters such as repairs and security deposits, Alabama also provides specific rights and responsibilities concerning topics like renter discrimination laws, landlord retaliation, and more. Explore some of these topics below.
Alabama renter discrimination laws
Landlords must adhere to the Federal Fair Housing Act and laws and cannot discriminate against tenants based on protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability.
Rental property owners cannot retaliate against tenants for exercising their legal rights, such as reporting housing code violations or joining a tenant organization. Retaliatory actions include increasing rent, decreasing services, or attempting to evict the tenant in response to protected activities.
In the event of landlord retaliation against the tenant, the tenant has rights and remedies outlined in Section 35-9A-407. These remedies include:
- The ability to regain possession of the rental unit
- Terminate the rental agreement.
In either case, the tenant is entitled to recover an amount equal to three months of rent or the actual damages suffered, whichever is greater, along with attorney's fees.
If the rental agreement is terminated under this section, the landlord must also return any recoverable security deposit as per Section 35-9A-201, as well as any unearned prepaid rent.
Required landlord disclosures in Alabama
Landlords must disclose any known material defects or hazards in the rental property, including lead-based paints, to prospective tenants before they enter into a lease agreement.
Alabama landlords must also disclose to the tenant in writing at or before the beginning of the lease the name and business address of the person authorized to manage the rental and the name and business address of an owner of the rental or a person authorized to act on the behalf of the owner.
Summing Up: A mutual understanding of Alabama's landlord-tenant laws
Understanding the intricacies of landlord-tenant laws in Alabama allows both parties to maintain a healthy and respectful living environment. While these laws are comprehensive, they are designed to protect the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants.
By knowing and following these rules, landlords can protect their investments, maintain strong relationships with their tenants, and efficiently manage their properties. Simultaneously, tenants are empowered to assert their rights, ensuring their living environment is healthy and respectful.
As both parties navigate through the complex landscape of Alabama's landlord-tenant laws, this guide serves as a trusted companion to foster clarity and mutual understanding.
Alabama landlord-tenant law FAQs
How much notice does a landlord have to give a tenant to move out in Alabama?
In Alabama, the amount of notice a landlord must give a renter to move out depends on the reason for eviction:
- Non-payment of rent: If a tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord must provide a seven-day notice to pay rent or vacate the property.
- Lease violations: If a tenant violates the terms of the rental agreement, the landlord must give a 14-day notice to comply or vacate.
- Illegal activity: If a tenant commits an illegal activity or repeats a violation of their lease or legal responsibilities within six months, the landlord must give a seven-day notice to cure the violation or vacate the property.
- Month-to-month lease termination: If the landlord wishes to end a month-to-month tenancy but does not have legal cause to evict the tenant, then the landlord can give the renter a 30-day written notice to vacate.
Can a landlord enter without permission in Alabama?
Unless it’s for emergency reasons, landlords cannot enter a rental property without permission or providing a written notice of at least two days prior to entry.
What is the limit a landlord or tenant can sue for in Alabama small claims court?
Small claims court is designed to handle disputes involving relatively small amounts of money in a simplified and expedited manner. In Alabama, a small claims court will hear rental cases for up to $6,000.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials are for general informational purposes only. This content may not constitute the most up-to-date legal information. No reader, user, or browser of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information herein without first seeking the advice of a legal professional.