Alabama Rental Laws

An Overview of Alabama Landlord-Tenant Laws

It is highly beneficial for both tenants and landlords to be aware of their rights, and what the law stipulates about a rental property and the relationship between tenants and landlords. As a landlord or tenant, this knowledge can be quite handy when you are faced with a challenging situation related to a rental property. This article offers a summary of fundamental Alabama Landlord Tenant Laws, which apply to residential rental properties.

Alabama Laws on Security Deposit

The Alabama Landlord Tenant Laws (Alabama Code § 35-9A-201) limits how much security deposit a landlord can demand from a potential tenant; this deposit is set at an equivalent of one month’s rent.  This stipulated security deposit does not cover pet deposits and any alterations that may be done on the premises such as undoing staircases to accommodate a physically challenged individual.

The security deposit is usually intended to cover any damage to the property after the tenant moves out. This deposit also cushions the landlord from incurring any rental loss if the tenant moves out early, without paying rent.  The deadline for returning this deposit is set at 60 days after the tenant moves or after the lease has expired. The landlord must also present an itemized list of all the deductions he/she made the deposit such as the cost of repairs.

Alabama Notice Rules on Outstanding rent and Entry

The state Landlord-Tenant Laws in Alabama require the landlord to give a notice period of at least 30 days for the tenant to raise rent; this is unless a rental agreement that states otherwise was agreed upon by both parties.  On the other side, a tenant has seven days to pay his/her rent; otherwise, the landlord is allowed to file for eviction. The law also instructs a ten-day notice to quite a lease or remedy in the event a tenant violates a lease agreement.

The Required Notice before an entry is two days.  The law also allows entry for maintenance and repair purposes, but there has to be a notice given before entry.  In the event, the tenant has an extended absence (more than 14 days) unannounced entry is permitted by law but with good reason. The landlord is also allowed to show the property but only when a notice has been issued.  The law also allows for emergency entry when there is no notice.

Lease, Rent and Fee Rules

Alabama Landlord Tenant Laws demand that the following be spelled out included in all lease agreements:

•    The amount of rent a landlord should charge a tenant. There are no limits set on this rule.

•    The contract should indicate where and how rent should be remitted. For instance, payment should be sent to the landlord’s office via mail.

•    How rental payments should be made (money order, credit care or cash or cheque) and the date for remitting rent.

•    It should state the consequences a tenant will incur for failure to pay rent on time, such as termination of tenancy.

•    The lease must stipulate everything that the landlord is obligated to do. For instance, the landlord may agree to be responsible for maintaining the property such as repainting it once in a while.

State laws in Alabama concerning rental property do not stipulate the notice period a landlord must give a tenant in order to increase rent or change other terms of the lease agreement. However, the general rule is the notice period of rent increase is the same time a landlord must provide when terminating tenancy which is 30 days unless the rental agreement states otherwise.

Regarding rental late fees, the laws in Alabama are “silent”. However, if a tenant does not pay rent on the stipulated date (by rental agreement); the landlord may charge him/her a late fee. However, if the terms of late fees are not stated in the rental agreement, the landlord may not impose them on the tenant.

Small Claims court limit

The Law in Alabama allows tenants to sue their landlord for a limit of $6,000 in a small claims court when they fail to return deposits. Once a complainant has been filed the defendant may respond in written form within 14 days. The law allows both the tenant and landlord, to have an attorney represent them in this court, and so does a collection agency that is suing to collect a debt. You should note that the small claims court does not hear matters related to eviction notices; these are instead arbitrated upon by other higher courts.

Required Landlord Disclosures

Under Alabama Landlord Tenant Laws (Ala. Code § 35-9A-202) landlords are obligated to disclose accurate information to their potential tenants and tenants. For instance, the address and name of the property Management Company or individual that is authorized to take any action on the landlord’s/owners behalf, in matters related to receiving and issuing notices and managing the property. This information is usually contained in the lease or rental agreement

Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent

In most states the tenant usually has the right to withhold rent in the event that he/she has carried out necessary repairs on the property; this is usually referred to as the right to “repair and deduct”. However, this right does not exist under the Alabama Landlord and Tenant Laws.  When a landlord fails to make the necessary repairs such as a leaking roof or broken heater, the tenant should request these repairs by issuing the landlord with a written notice.  The notice period allowed is 14 days, after which if no action is taken the tenant has the right to move out of the premises. The tenant also has the right to remain in the premises and sue the landlord for damages. This rights are stipulated under Ala. Code § 35-9A-164.

Termination and Eviction Rules in Alabama

The state’s landlord and tenants laws stipulate how and when a landlord can terminate a tenancy. For instance, if a tenant has been found in possession or uses illegal drugs in the premises, the landlord has the right to issue an unconditional quit notice. This notice gives a tenant seven days to vacate the premises; otherwise, the landlord can file for eviction.

Local Ordinances which Affect Alabama Landlords and Tenants laws

Counties and cities will often pass local ordinances that may affect the state laws. For instance, a county may stipulate antidiscrimination rules, health and safety standards and regulations on noise and nuisance. It is important as a landlord or tenant to be conversant with these local rules.  These local ordinances can usually be found on municipalities or city websites.

As a tenant, you have certain rights under the Alabama landlords and tenant laws such as, the right to live in a rental property that meets the basic health and safety standards. The landlord also has rights under this law, such as the right to get rent in a timely and convenient manner (according to the lease agreement). Both the rights of the landlord and the tenants are protected under law, and hence the need to be conversant with these rules and regulations. This article has covered some of the fundamental laws, which should act as a guide when you are renting property. It is, however, important to study these laws in depth when faced with certain legal rental related issues, or consult a lawyer in such an event.

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