In Alabama, all evictions follow the same process:
- Landlord serves tenant with written notice.
- Landlord files complaint with court (if uncured).
- Tenant files an Answer.
- Court holds hearing and issues judgment.
- Court issues writ of execution.
- Sheriff returns possession of property to landlord.
From start to finish, an eviction in Alabama can take about one month to several months. However, it can take longer depending on the reason and whether the tenant contests it.
Grounds for an Eviction in Alabama
In Alabama, a landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without cause. Legal grounds to evict include not paying rent on time, staying after the lease ends, violating lease terms or not upholding responsibilities under Alabama law. Even so, proper notice must first be given before ending the tenancy.
|Nonpayment of Rent||7 Days||Yes|
|End of / No Lease||7 or 30 Days||No|
|Lease Violation||7 Days||Maybe|
Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent
In Alabama, a landlord can evict a tenant for not paying rent on time. To do so, they must first give 7 day Notice to Pay rent or vacate the premises. If the tenant does neither after that time, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.
Rent is due on the date specified in your lease and is considered late in Alabama the day immediately after its due date. So for example, if rent is due on the first of the month, it is considered late starting on the second of the month (if not paid in full). There is no right to a legal grace period (i.e. five days) or exceptions for weekends or court-observed holidays.
Once rent is considered late, the landlord can begin the eviction process by serving the tenant with proper notice.
Eviction for No Lease or End of Lease
In Alabama, a landlord can evict a tenant without a lease or with a lease that has ended (known as a “holdover tenant” or “tenant at will”). To do so, they must first terminate the tenancy by giving proper notice to move out (30 days for month-to-month tenants and 7 days for week-to-week).
Once the tenancy ends, if the tenant remains on the property, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.
Eviction for Violation of Lease or Responsibilities
In Alabama, a landlord can evict a tenant for violating the terms of their lease or not upholding their responsibilities under Alabama landlord tenant law. Some (but not all) violations allow the tenant to fix (“cure”) the issue to avoid removal. Regardless of the issue, the landlord must give 7 days notice to comply before proceeding.
For more minor offenses, the tenant can remain at the property if they fix the issue within the 7 day notice period. Examples of curable violations include:
- Having an unauthorized pet, guest or vehicle.
- Parking in an unauthorized area.
- Not maintaining a certain level of cleanliness.
However, if the tenant repeats the violation within a 6-month period, the landlord does not have to offer the tenant a second chance to fix it.
For more serious (or repeated) offenses, the tenant isn’t given the opportunity to fix the issue and remain at the property. For incurable violations, a tenant must vacate the premises within the 7 day period or the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit. Examples of incurable violations include:
- Tenant is selling or using illegal drugs; or
- Tenant intentionally misrepresented a material fact in a rental agreement or application.
Illegal Evictions in Alabama
In Alabama, either of the below actions by a landlord are illegal. If proven in court, the landlord could be liable for damages including attorney’s fees.
“Self Help” Evictions
No matter the situation, a landlord is not allowed to forcibly remove a tenant by:
- Changing the locks.
- Shutting off utilities.
- Removing tenant belongings.
A tenant can only be legally removed with a court order obtained through the formal eviction process.
It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant in response to exercising a legally protected right. These rights include:
- Complaining to the landlord about an issue with the property;
- Contacting a local or government agency about an issue with the property;
- Joining, supporting or organizing a tenant union or organization;
- Pursuing legal action against the landlord; or
- Withholding rent for a legally acceptable reason.
Step 1: Landlord Serves Notice to Tenant
A landlord can begin the eviction process in Alabama by serving the tenant with written notice. The notice must be delivered by one of the following methods:
- Hand delivering the notice to the tenant.
- Mailing a copy of the notice via regular mail, certified mail or registered mail.
- Leaving the notice in a conspicuous place (i.e. on the front door).
It is important for a landlord to always maintain a copy of the signed and served notice as proof of proper service of notice.
7-Day Notice to Pay Rent
If a tenant is late on paying rent (full or partial) in Alabama, the landlord can serve them a 7-Day Notice to Pay Rent. This notice gives the tenant 7 days (not counting weekends or holidays) to pay the entire remaining balance or vacate the premises.
7-Day Notice to Comply
In Alabama, if a tenant commits a minor violation of the terms of their lease or legal responsibilities as a tenant, the landlord can serve them a 7-Day Notice to Comply. This eviction notice gives the tenant 7 calendar days to fix the issue or move out. A tenant can also be evicted in Alabama if they violate a health, building, safety, or housing code. In these instances, the landlord can also serve a 7-Day Notice to Comply.
7-Day Notice to Quit
If a tenant commits a serious, illegal, or repeated violation of their lease or legal responsibilities, the landlord can serve them a 7-Day Notice to Quit. This notice gives the tenant 7 calendar days to move out without the chance to cure the issue and remain.
A landlord may also serve a tenant with a 7-Day Notice to Quit if tenants intentionally include false or misleading information on a rental agreement or a rental application, the landlord has the right to evict the tenant.
A 7-Day Notice to Quit may also be used to evict week-to-week tenants without a lease.
30-Day Notice to Quit
For a tenant with no lease or a month-to-month lease in Alabama, the landlord must serve a 30-Day Notice to Quit to end the tenancy. This notice allows the tenant 30 calendar days to move out (or the next business day if the final day lands on a weekend or legal holiday).
However, for tenants that don’t pay monthly, the amount of notice differs:
|Rent Payment Frequency||Notice Amount|
Step 2: Landlord Files Lawsuit with Court
If the notice period ends and the tenant remains on the property, the Landlord must next file a complaint in the court of the proper county. The most convenient way to file a case is by using the Alabama Courts’ e-Filing Portal.
The complaint should include the following information:
- The landlord and tenant names;
- The rental property address, including the county;
- The grounds for eviction (i.e., nonpayment of rent, lease violation, etc.); and
- When notice was served.
After being notarized by the county clerk, the summons and complaint are forwarded to a process server or county sheriff to serve each named tenant. Certain fees may apply for the service of the summons and complaint.
The number of copies and which documents you need to provide varies based on the claims and number of tenants in your suit. To be certain always call the local Clerk’s Office. When only one tenant is involved, the Landlord will generally need:
- The original and two copies of the summons and complaint;
- Three copies of the notice served on the tenant;
- Three copies of the lease or rental agreement, if applicable;
- The applicable filing fee in the form of cash, check, money order, or credit card; and
- Proof of service.
If filing an eviction suit through the e-Filing Portal, the landlord will still need to serve a copy of the above documents on each tenant.
In most counties, filing fees cost around $247 and an additional $10 per tenant for each summons that will be issued. Information regarding filing fees can be found on the applicable county court website, such as the Montgomery District Court Website.
~Six days. The summons and complaint must be served on the tenant within six days of the process return date.
Step 3: Court Serves Tenant with Summons & Complaint
Once the process server or sheriff has served the tenant, the tenant may choose to answer and contest the complaint. A response must be in writing and filed with the clerk of court within 7 days.
If the tenant contests the eviction, the process may take longer or include additional steps. To contest the eviction the tenant must have a legal defense, or a valid reason why the landlord should not evict them. The tenant must also serve the landlord with the response containing the defenses.
A valid legal defense may include the following situations:
- The landlord executed a “self help” eviction prior to finalizing the proper legal proceedings;
- The tenant resolved a curable violation;
- The landlord discriminated against the tenant;
- The landlord evicted the tenant in a retaliatory manner;
- The tenant did not violate the terms of the lease;
- The landlord failed to properly maintain the rental unit as required by state and federal law; or
- The notice or complaint contained substantial errors, such as omitting the effective date of eviction.
A court may dismiss the eviction lawsuit if it finds any of the above defenses to be true, aside from errors in the legal documents. If the notice or complaint contained substantial errors, the landlord must fix the errors and restart the eviction process.
If the tenant does not choose to contest the eviction, the process will proceed via the steps below.
7-14 days, depending on whether the landlord is asking for back rent/other money owed.
Step 4: Court Holds Hearing & Issues Judgment
If the tenant fails to file an answer to the eviction complaint, the landlord may move forward with filing a default motion judgment to obtain a judgment in favor of the landlord.
If the tenant does contest the eviction, the tenant may be required to pay the Court Clerk the amount of any outstanding rent and any rent until the lawsuit is over. If there is a disagreement over the amount of rent owed, the tenant may file a motion with the court to have the amount determined. Landlords must appear in court. If a properly served tenant fails to show up for the court date, the court will automatically rule in favor of the landlord.
To prepare for the hearing the landlord and tenant should bring the following:
- A copy of the lease agreement;
- The notice to quit, comply or to pay;
- The complaint; and
- Any evidence (i.e., photos of damage, billing statements, etc.) or witnesses to help prove the case in court.
Regardless if the eviction was contested or not, if the judge rules in favor of the landlord, a Writ of Execution will be subsequently issued and the process will proceed.
Either party can request a 15 day continuance for “good cause.” A party may also appeal the Court’s decision.
A few weeks. Alabama law doesn’t state how quickly a hearing date will be scheduled; but a continuance will add 15 days, and an appeal could add another 67 days to the process.
Step 5: Writ of Execution Is Issued
In Alabama, a Writ of Execution is a court order served to a tenant that gives the tenant a final 7 days to move out before being forcibly removed. The order is issued in response to a ruling made in favor of a landlord in an eviction case
Immediately. The writ of execution can be issued at the time of the judgment in favor of the landlord (at the hearing).
Step 6: Sheriff Returns Property to Landlord
Seven days after the writ of execution is issued, the sheriff or constable will forcibly remove the tenant from the rental unit, if the tenant has not already moved out by that time.
A writ of execution in eviction cases is automatically stayed for seven days, giving the tenant time to move out on their own before the sheriff or constable comes to remove them.
Seven days. The writ of execution is automatically stayed (postponed) for seven days, per Alabama law.
Alabama Eviction Process Timeline
In Alabama, an eviction can be completed in as little as 1 to 3 months but can take longer depending on the reason for eviction, whether the eviction is contested, which days courts are (or aren’t) in session and other various possible delays.
Below are the parts of the Alabama eviction process outside the control of landlords for cases that go uncontested.
|Initial Notice Period||7-30 Days|
|Court Issuing and Serving Summons||~6 Days|
|Tenant Response Period||7-14 Days|
|Court Ruling||Several Weeks (unless appealed)|
|Court Serving Writ of Possession||Immediately|
|Final Notice Period||7 Days|