Alabama Landlord Tenant Law

Looking for clear and concise information on Alabama landlord tenant law? Get all your answers from this plain English guide to the Alabama Landlord Tenant Act.

AL Landlord Tenant Law:

  • Alabama Code Title 35, Chapter 9A - Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

Tenant Application

Application Fees

The landlord can ask prospective tenants for application fees to cover the costs of background and credit checks. The fee amount should be reasonable - We recommend charging $25 to $30 per applicant. If the landlord did not run any tenant screening checks, the fees should be refunded.

Background and Credit Check

Before running background or credit checks on tenant applicants, landlords must first obtain the applicant's written permission. [Fair Credit Reporting Act Sec.604(a)(3)(F)]

For landlords to run background and credit checks, the tenant application form needs to ask for the applicant's:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • social security number or ITIN (individual taxpayer identification number)
  • current address
  • signed consent (e.g. "I authorize the use of the information and contacts provided to complete a credit, reference, and/or background check.")

Avoiding Discrimination

The federal Fair Housing Act disallows landlords from rejecting prospective renters based on their race, color, religion, nationality, sex, *familial status or physical/mental disability. *Familial status means landlords cannot reject someone for having one or more children under 18. Familial status also includes pregnant women and people planning to have (or adapt) children under 18.

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Tenancy Agreement

A tenancy agreement (also known as a lease agreement or rental agreement) can be written or verbal.

The landlord and tenant can choose between a month to month tenancy or fixed term lease. For a month to month tenancy, the landlord or tenant can change its terms and conditions at the end of every month. For a fixed term lease, the landlord and tenant CANNOT change the lease terms and conditions during its duration... unless there is written consent from both parties.

Unless the tenancy agreement specifies a fixed term lease, the landlord and tenant will enter into a month to month tenancy by default. If the tenant is paying rent weekly (instead of monthly), then the tenancy will be week to week. [AL 35-9A-161.(d)]

Required for Tenancy Agreement

Alabama landlord tenant law requires all tenancy agreements to contain the following details:

  • Name and address of person authorized to manage the property [AL 35-9A-202.(a)(1)]
  • Name and address or property owner or owner's agent (person authorized to act on behalf of owner) [AL 35-9A-202.(a)(2)]
  • Disclosure and information of lead-based paint in the property (for housing built before 1978)

Recommended for Tenancy Agreement

  • Name and address of tenant(s)
  • Number of people (occupants) staying on the property
  • Type of tenancy: month to month tenancy or fixed term lease
  • How much is the rent
  • When, how and where the rent is to be paid
  • When is rent is considered late and the penalties for late rent payment
  • How much is the security deposit and pet deposit (if any)
  • Who holds the deposit(s) and where will it be held
  • What utilities and services are provided and who pays for them
  • What are the landlord's and tenant's duties for property maintenance
  • Can the tenant sublet the property or assign the lease
  • When to inform the landlord if tenant will be away for a long time
  • Prohibited activities and items

Disallowed for Tenancy Agreement

According to Alabama landlord tenant law, your lease agreement CANNOT:

  • make the tenant waive any legal rights, remedies or security deposit requirements under the Alabama Landlord and Tenant Act [AL 35-9A-163.(a)(1)]
  • permit any person to get a confession of judgment against the tenant on a claim arising out of the tenancy agreement [AL 35-9A-163.(a)(2)]
  • make the tenant pay for the landlord's attorney fees or collection costs (unless ordered by the courts) [AL 35-9A-163.(a)(3)]
  • limit the landlord or tenant's liability when they have failed in their duties [AL 35-9A-163.(a)(4)]

If the landlord deliberately includes these disallowed terms and conditions in the tenancy agreement, the tenant can sue the landlord for one month's rent and (reasonable) attorney fees.

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Security Deposit

Alabama landlord tenant law allows the landlord to ask for up to one month's rent as security deposit. If there are pets, changes to the premises or increased liability risks (to the landlord or premises), the landlord can ask for additional deposit. [AL 35-9A-201.(a)]

Deductions and Returns

Alabama landlord tenant law requires the landlord to inform the tenant of the terms and conditions for security deposit deductions.
   
Valid reasons for security deposit deductions (under Alabama landlord tenant law) include:

  • Rent owed
  • Property damage due to negligence, misuse or abuse by tenant, occupants or tenant's guests
  • Costs and losses incurred by landlord due to the tenant failing in his or her duties - See Tenant Duties and Responsibilities below

Once the lease terminates and the tenant returns the property, the landlord must send the tenant a list of security deposit deductions and refund any remaining deposit within 60 days. This list has to individually account for all damages and rent owed in writing. [AL 35-9A-201.(b)]

If the landlord isn't returning the entire deposit, he or she must send the tenant an itemized list of deductions within 60 days. [AL 35-9A-201.(c)]

Once the tenant vacates the property, he or she shall provide an address for the landlord to mail the deposit and itemized list of deductions (if applicable). If the tenant did not provide an address, the landlord shall send the deposit and itemized list to the tenant's last known address or the rental property by first class mail. [AL 35-9A-201.(d)]

If the tenant fails to claim any deposit or outstanding check within 90 days, it will be forfeited.

If the landlord fails to follow Alabama landlord tenant law for deducting and returning security deposit, the tenant can recover up to two times the amount of security deposit. [AL 35-9A-201.(f)]

If Property is Sold

Once property ownership is transferred, the new owner will be responsible for refunding any security deposit or prepaid rent to the tenant (at the end of the tenancy). [AL 35-9A-205.(a)] Therefore the new owner should make sure that the previous owner transfers all security deposits and prepaid rents along with the property.
   
The previous owner is no longer responsible for the tenancy once ALL three conditions are met:

  1. The previous owner makes a proper transfer of all security deposits and prepaid rents to the new owner
  2. The previous owner informs the tenant in writing that the property is being sold
  3. The new owner and tenant enters into a new agreement on the condition and contents of the property

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Birmingham, Alabama AL

Alabama Landlord Tenant Law

Rent

The tenant has to pay the rent without demand or reminders. As long as the landlord and tenant are agreeable, they can choose the time, place and method of rent payment.
   
By default, rent is payable once the tenancy begins and shall be paid on the same day of every month. Rent is to be collected at the rental property. [AL 35-9A-161.(c)]

Late Rent

There are no Alabama landlord tenant statutes on imposing charges for late rent payments.

If the landlord wants to impose late rent charges, it has to be specified in the tenancy agreement. While there are no state laws on late fees, landlords cannot overcharge or impose unfair terms. Otherwise the tenant can refuse to pay and challenge the late fees in court.

Most states consider reasonable late fees to be around 3 to 5% of the rent amount. In addition, landlords should wait until rent payment is at least three days late before charging late fees.

Raising Rent

There are no specific Alabama landlord tenant statutes on raising rent.

We recommend that the landlord and tenant work out the following details and include them in the rental agreement:

  • When can the landlord raise the rent?
  • How many days notice does the landlord have to give before raising the rent?
  • How many days notice does the tenant have to give if he or she is moving out due to the rent increase?
  • Maximum amount or percentage of rent increase (optional)

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Property Maintenance

Landlord Duties and Responsibilities

The Alabama Landlord Tenant Act requires the landlord to maintain the property in a safe and habitable condition:

  • Compliance: Obey all building and housing codes that affect health and safety [AL 35-9A-204.(a)(1)]
  • Repairs: Make all repairs to keep the property safe and habitable [AL 35-9A-204.(a)(2)]
  • Common Areas: Keep all common areas clean and safe  [AL 35-9A-204.(a)(3)]
  • Maintenance: Maintain all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, kitchen facilities in safe working condition [AL 35-9A-204.(a)(4)]
  • Waste Disposal: Provide outlets for waste disposal and arrange for waste removal    [AL 35-9A-204.(a)(5)]
  • Heating: Supply running water, hot water and heating (as far as conditions allow) [AL 35-9A-204.(a)(6)]

Tenant Duties and Responsibilities

Alabama landlord tenant law also requires the tenant to keep the property in a clean and safe condition:

  • Compliance: Ensure that all rules and requirements of the building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety are followed. [AL 35-9A-301.(1)]
  • Cleanliness: Keep the property clean and safe (as far as conditions will allow) [AL 35-9A-301.(2)]
  • Waste Disposal: Dispose all waste from the property in a clean and safe manner [AL 35-9A-301.(3)]
  • Maintenance: Keep all plumbing fixtures as clear as their condition permits [AL 35-9A-301.(4)]
  • Proper Usage: Use all facilities and appliances properly. This includes all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, kitchen and common area facilities (e.g. elevators). [AL 35-9A-301.(5)]
  • Property Damage: Avoid property damage due to negligence, misuse or abuse by the tenant, occupants or tenant's guests [AL 35-9A-301.(6)]
  • Neighbors: Avoid disturbing neighbors and also disallow others from disturbing neighbors [AL 35-9A-301.(7)]

If Landlord Fails to Maintain Property

If the landlord fails to maintain the property (and it affects the tenant's health and safety) OR severely violates the rental agreement, the tenant can give the landlord a written notice stating the problem and giving the landlord 14 days to correct it. [AL 35-9A-401.(a)]

If the problem is corrected within 14 days (of the landlord receiving this notice), the tenancy shall continue. [AL 35-9A-401.(a)(1)]

If the problem isn't corrected within 14 days, the tenancy shall terminate and the tenant can move out. In this case, the landlord has to return all security deposits and prepaid rents (after deductions) to the tenant. [AL 35-9A-401.(d)]

In addition, the tenant may also sue the landlord for actual damages plus attorney fees AND obtain a court order to make the landlord follow the tenancy agreement and Alabama landlord tenant law. [AL 35-9A-401.(b)]

If Landlord Fails to Provide Essential Services

According to AL landlord tenant law, the landlord doesn't have to pay for utility services unless he or she agrees to in the rental agreement. [AL 35-9A-404.(a)]

If the landlord fails to supply electricity, heating, running water, hot water, gas and other essential services, the tenant can give the landlord a written notice to terminate the rental agreement after 14 days.

In this case, the landlord has to return all security deposits and prepaid rents (after deductions) to the tenant. [AL 35-9A-404.(b)(1)]

In addition, the tenant may also sue the landlord for damages based on the property's decline in rental value (due to the lack of essential services). [AL 35-9A-404.(b)(2)]

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Property Access

When Tenant's Permission is Required

According to Alabama landlord tenant law, the landlord is allowed to enter the property for the following reasons [AL 35-9A-303.(a)]:

  • Performing property maintenance or repairs
  • Supplying essential (or mutually agreed) services and utilities
  • Inspecting property for damages
  • Showing property to prospective buyers, tenants or contractors

In the above situations, the landlord must inform the tenant at least 48 hours in advance before entering the property. The landlord can only enter the property with the tenant's consent and during reasonable hours.

Alabama landlord tenant law allows the landlord to inform the tenant by posting a written notice on the main entrance of the property. This notice must state the intended time and purpose of entry. [AL 35-9A-303.(c)]

When Tenant's Permission is NOT Required

According to Alabama landlord tenant law, the landlord may enter the property without permission in the following situations:

  • Emergencies such as smoke, fire, flooding or explosion [AL 35-9A-303.(b)(1)]
  • Court order grants the landlord property access [AL 35-9A-303.(b)(2)]
  • Tenant has been absent for more than 14 days - The landlord may enter the property for reasonable purposes (e.g. making repairs). [AL 35-9A-303.(b)(3)] [AL 35-9A-423.(b)]
  • Tenant fails to maintain the property and it substantially affects health and safety - The landlord may give the tenant a written notice stating the problem and giving the tenant 7 days to fix it. If the tenant fails to fix the problem within 7 days, the landlord is allowed to enter the property to make repairs then send the tenant an itemized repair bill. In this case, the tenant has to pay for all (reasonable) repair and replacement costs. [AL 35-9A-303.(b)(3)] [AL 35-9A-422]
  • Tenant has abandoned or surrendered the property [AL 35-9A-303.(b)(5)]

If Tenant Refuses Landlord's Valid Request to Enter Property

The tenant cannot deny access if the landlord has a valid reason to enter the property. Otherwise the landlord can EITHER

  1. obtain a court order that requires the tenant to let the landlord in OR
  2. terminate the lease agreement by giving the tenant a written notice at least 14 days in advance.

In addition, the landlord may also sue the tenant for actual damages. [AL 35-9A-442.(a)]

If Landlord Enters Property Illegally

The landlord must have a valid reason and obtain the tenant's permission (whenever required by Alabama landlord tenant law) to enter the property. If the landlord fails to do so or harasses the tenant, the tenant can EITHER

  1.  obtain a court order that stops the landlord from entering the property illegally or harassing the tenant OR
  2. terminate the lease agreement by giving the tenant a written notice at least 10 days in advance.

In addition, the tenant may also sue the landlord for actual damages. [AL 35-9A-442.(b)]

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Subletting

There are no specific Alabama landlord tenant laws on subletting.

We recommend that the landlord and tenant work out the following details and include them in the rental agreement:

  • Is the tenant allowed to sublet the property? If yes, is the landlord's written consent required before the tenant can sublet?
  • Is the landlord allowed to screen and reject every prospective subtenant?
  • Can the landlord ask for additional rent and security deposit if the tenant sublets?

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Montgomery, Alabama AL

Montgomery, Alabama AL

Termination of Tenancy

Number of Days for Notice to Quit

Alabama landlord tenant law requires you to give the other party a written notice to quit before terminating a tenancy.

For a week to week tenancy, you must give this notice at least 7 days before the termination date. [AL 35-9A-441.(a)]

For a month to month tenancy, you have to give this notice at least 30 days in advance. [AL 35-9A-441.(b)]

TENANT

If you are the tenant, the following are the minimum number of days for giving your landlord a notice to quit:

Landlord violated tenancy agreement or didn't perform duties

14 days

Landlord entered property illegally

14 days

Property damage due to fire, disaster or accident

14 days

Property Damage Due to Fire, Disaster or Accident

If the property is badly damaged by fire, disasters or (unavoidable) accidents, the tenant can move out immediately THEN notify the landlord within 14 days that he or she intends to terminate the tenancy. This notice must be in writing and the tenancy will terminate once the tenant moves out. [AL 35-9A-406.(a)(1)]
   
After the tenant moves out, the landlord has to return all security deposits and prepaid rents (after deductions) to the tenant. According to Alabama landlord tenant law, the tenant shall not be charged for rent starting from the date of the fire, disaster or accident. [AL 35-9A-406.(b)]
   
If the property is still habitable, the tenant should stay out of any damaged area. The rent amount shall be reduced based on the extent of property damage. [AL 35-9A-406.(a)(2)]

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Eviction

According to Alaska landlord tenant law, the following are valid reasons for evicting tenants and the minimum number of days for giving them a notice to quit:

Tenant did not pay rent

7 days

Tenant violated tenancy agreement or didn't perform duties

14 days

Tenant refused landlord's valid request to enter property

14 days

Tenant Did Not Pay Rent

If the tenant did not pay rent on time, the landlord can send the tenant a seven day written notice to terminate the tenancy. This notice must state the amount of rent and any late fees owed.

If the rent and late fees are paid within seven days, the tenant may stay. [AL 35-9A-421.(b)]

Tenant Violated Tenancy Agreement or Didn't Perform Duties

If the tenant violates the tenancy agreement in a *significant manner, the landlord can send the tenant a 14 day written notice to terminate the tenancy. *Significant manner refers to situations that affects human health and safety.

Similarly if the tenant fails to perform his or her duties (see Tenant Duties and Responsibilities above) in a *significant manner, the landlord can also send the tenant a 14 day written notice to terminate the tenancy.

This written notice has to state what is the tenant's violation or failure in duty. If the tenant corrects the problem within 14 days, the tenant may stay. [AL 35-9A-421.(a)]

Tenant Overstayed After Tenancy is Over

If the tenant continues staying on the property (without the landlord's consent) after the rental agreement expires or is terminated, the landlord can sue the tenant for three month's rent plus attorney fees. If actual damages exceeds three month's rent, the landlord may sue for the full amount. [AL 33-9A-441.(c)]

Unlawful Eviction

According to Alabama landlord tenant law, the landlord CANNOT force the tenant to move out by shutting off utilities (electricity, water, gas, sanitation), taking the tenant's belongings or taking possession of the property by force without a court hearing.

If the landlord forces the tenant to move out with (the unlawful methods above) or shuts off utilities, the tenant can EITHER

  1. regain possession of the property OR
  2. terminate the tenancy agreement

In addition, the tenant may also sue the landlord for three month's rent plus attorney fees. If actual damages exceeds three month's rent, the tenant may sue for the full amount. [AL 33-9A-441.(c)]

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Abandonment

Alabama landlord tenant law doesn't state what situations are considered as abandonment of the property by the tenant.

However the rental agreement can include the following requirement: The tenant must inform the landlord if he or she is expected to be absent from the property for more than 14 days. The tenant has to inform the landlord no later than the fifth day of absence. [AL 35-9A-304]

If the rental agreement contains the above requirement and the tenant fails to inform the landlord on time, the landlord can sue the tenant for actual damages. [AL 35-9A-423.(a)]

As long as the landlord makes a proper effort to re-rent the abandoned property at a fair rate, the abandoning tenant will be responsible for paying rent until the tenancy ends. If a new tenant is moving in before the tenancy ends, then the abandoning tenant can stop paying rent once the new tenant moves in. [AL 35-9A-423.(c)]

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Resources

Alabama Landlord Tenant Law: Alabama Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

Alabama Landlord Tenant Handbook: The Alabama Tenant's Handbook

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