Alaska Landlord Tenant Laws
Alaska is one of the states that has wholly adopted the provisions of the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act as the cornerstone of its rental law. A major update to this act was approved in July 2015, and Alaska state law is in the process of updating to reflect these changes. Be sure to check the cited statutes to ensure that the law is still current.
What Laws Cover Landlord-Tenant Relationships in Alaska?
Title 34, Chapter 34.03 covers residential rental relationships in Alaska. The state refers to this chapter as the “Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act,” reflecting the source of most of its provisions. The one significant difference from the national suggested URLTA laws in Alaska is that the laws regarding enforcement of housing and building codes are not quite as stringent. The Alaska Court System publishes a pamphlet entitled “The Alaska Landlord and Tenant Act” to quickly familiarize both landlords and renters with the basic provisions of Chapter 34.03.
The one other state statute that Alaska landlords and tenants will want to be familiar with is Stat. 09.10.010, which covers limitations on civil actions.
Security Deposit Rules
Under Chapter 34.03.70, Alaska limits security deposits to a maximum of the equivalent of two months rent, with the exception of units that rent for $2,000 and over, for which no limit is specified. Security deposits are required to promptly be placed in a bank account or with an escrow agent, but there are no specific terms about what type of account. If it is placed in an interest-bearing account, however, the tenant is entitled to the interest it generates. There is no statute on pet deposits and non-refundable fees.
Security deposits must be returned by mail within 14 days, unless the tenant did not give proper notice when they quit the lease, in which case they must be returned within 30 days if applicable. Deposits can be withheld for rent owed and damages caused by the tenant’s noncompliance with the obligations laid out in Chapter 34.03.070. An itemized list of expenses must be mailed to the tenant’s last known address, however.
If landlords fail to comply in their obligation to return the security deposit (and any interest it may have accrued), the tenant has the right to recover up to twice the amount that was wrongfully withheld under Chapter 34.03.70.
Lease, Rent and Fee Rules
The exact due dates of the rent and any late fees that the landlord wishes to charge must be spelled out in the lease, according to Chapter 34.03.020. Alaska law does not permit a default late fee or returned check fee, so if the landlord does not establish one in the lease they will not be able to charge one. There is also no statute on a rent payment grace period, however, so it is up to the landlord if they want to provide one.
Since the landlord may not ask for an amount that totals more than two months of rent at move-in, it is difficult for landlords to ask for the “first, last and security deposit” that is standard in many other states. Landlords may either choose between asking for the last month’s rent in advance or a security deposit, or they may offer a promotion where the first month of rent is given for free with the signing of a year’s lease and the security deposit and/or last month’s rent is paid in lieu of the first month’s rent when moving in. This limitation does not apply if the rental cost of the unit is over $2,000 per month, however.
Tenants are allowed to withhold rent if essential services are not provided. This is covered by Chapter 34.03.108, which stipulates that the tenant must give the landlord written notice of the service issue before procuring the needed services on their own and deducting the cost from the rent. Tenants can only legally do this if the landlord is at fault, however. Tenants may also deduct rent for needed repairs under the same process. Landlords have a duty to mitigate damages and to make an attempt to rent the unit at fair market value if the tenant abandons it.
Landlords are allowed to recover court and attorney fees if legal proceedings are initiated to collect owed rent or damages, under Chapter 34.03.350.
Notice and Entry Rules
Chapter 34.03.290 covers advance notice needed to terminate a lease. 30 days is required for month-to-month leases, and 14 days is required for week-to-week leases. The landlord can terminate the lease with 24 hours notice if it can be demonstrated that the tenant has caused at least $400 worth of damage to the premises.
If the lease is terminated by the landlord for nonpayment, notice of at least seven days is required. A termination due to a lease violation requires 10 days notice, during which time the tenant may remedy the issue to avoid ending their lease.
There are some special rules regarding lease termination due to nonpayment of utilities by a tenant. Upon initial violation, the landlord must serve five days notice, but the tenant has only three days to remedy the situation to continue under the lease. If a similar breach occurs again within six months, the tenant may only be given three days to quit the unit.
Notice of 24 hours is required for any entry to the unit, and this entry can only be done during a reasonable time. The landlord is allowed to enter without notice during emergencies. If a tenant is going to be absent from the unit for more than seven days, they are required to notify the landlord. The landlord is allowed to enter the unit if they have not been notified and notice the tenant has been gone for more than a week.
Lockouts and utility shutoffs are not allowed in Alaska under any circumstances, and the tenant can legally terminate the rental agreement and collect damages of up to 1.5 times the actual cost to them if the landlord does this. This is covered under Chapter 34.03.210.
Required Disclosures and Notes
Chapter 34.03.100 spells out the required duties of the landlord. These are fairly standard duties such as keeping the premises clean and in good repair. One stipulation for Alaska is that heat must be made available from October 1 to May 1 unless the dwelling is a type that is not required by law to be heated.
Tenant duties are covered in Chapter 34.03.120. Tenants must keep the dwelling as clean and safe as is reasonably possible, not deliberately damage the unit and respect the quiet enjoyment rights of others nearby. Tenants may not change the locks on a unit unless there is an emergency and the landlord cannot be contacted for some reason. They are also not allowed to sublet without express written permission from the landlord.
Landlords must disclose to tenants any use of lead-based paints in their unit. The state has no statutes on disclosing a name and address, providing a copy of the lease or any specific duties of the landlord in a domestic violence situation.
Small Claims Court
The small claims court limit set by the state is $10,000. Eviction cases are not allowed in small claims court in Alaska. There is a statute of limitation of three years for contract violations and six years for real damages to property.