Timeline. The process of evicting a tenant in Alabama can take about one month to several months depending on whether the eviction is for nonpayment of rent or another type of eviction, whether there’s a continuance, and/or whether an appeal is filed (read more).
Introduction. Alabama’s eviction process is governed by the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure and the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure. District Courts and Circuit Courts shall have jurisdiction over eviction cases. Depending on where the county of the rental property is located shall determine the venue. Alabama landlords must have legal cause to evict a tenant, if the landlord does not have cause, the landlord must wait until the lease has ended. Below are the individual steps of the eviction process in Alabama.
Step 1: Notice is Posted
Landlords in Alabama can begin the eviction process for several reasons, including:
- Nonpayment of Rent – Once rent is past due, notice can be served to give the tenant the option to pay rent in order to avoid eviction.
- Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement – If a tenant violates a provision of a lease/rental agreement, the landlord must give the tenant the opportunity to correct the issue before moving forward with the eviction process.
- False/Misleading Information on Rental Agreement/Rental Application– Tenants who intentionally include misleading of false information on a rental application or rental agreement may be evicted, and do not have the ability to correct the violation in order to avoid eviction.
- No Lease / End of Lease Term (Tenant at Will) – If there is no lease or the term of the lease has ended, the landlord does not need any additional reason to end the tenancy as long as proper notice is given.
- Material Health / Safety Violation – If the tenant violates a health, building, safety, or housing code, they must be given the opportunity to fix (“cure”) the issue before the eviction process proceeds further.
- Illegal Activity – If a tenant or any other occupant of the rental unit is engaged in illegal drug activity, criminal assault, or illegal firearm activity, notice must be served before the landlord can evict the tenant.
- Retaliatory Evictions. It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for complaining to the landlord or to the appropriate local or government agency regarding the property. It is also illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for joining, supporting, or organizing a tenant organization or union.
- Evicting a Squatter. If the individual occupying the property did not have the permission of the landlord when initially moving in, does not have a lease (or verbal agreement), and has no history of paying rent, then a landlord/tenant relationship may not be established. As a result, the normal eviction process may not be applicable (read more).
Each possible ground for eviction has its own rules for how the process starts.
Eviction Process for Nonpayment of Rent
A landlord is allowed to evict a tenant for failing to pay rent on time.
According to Alabama law, rent is considered “late” the day after it’s due. Grace periods (if any) are addressed in the rental agreement.
Once rent is past due, the landlord must provide a 7-Day Notice to Pay if the landlord wants to file an eviction action with the court. This notice gives the tenant the option to pay the past due amount in full within seven business days in order to avoid eviction.
If the tenant does not pay the rent due by the end of the notice period and remains on the property, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Eviction Process for Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement
A tenant can be evicted in Alabama if they do not uphold their responsibilities under the terms of a written rental agreement.
Alabama landlords are required to provide tenants with a 7-Day Notice to Comply, giving the tenant the opportunity to correct any issues before the landlord can proceed with the eviction process.
Typical lease violations under this category could include situations like damaging the rental property, having too many people residing in the rental unit, and having a pet when there’s a no-pet policy.
However, if a tenant commits a second violation of the rental agreement within six months of the first violation for the same type of issue, Alabama landlords are not required to give the tenant an opportunity to correct the violation prior to eviction.
If the tenant has not corrected the violation within the notice period, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Note that material health and safety violations and illegal activity are addressed separately.
Eviction Process for False / Misleading Information on Rental Application / Agreement
In the state of Alabama, 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.
After giving false information, tenants are not allowed to provide the correct information or remedy the issue in any way. The eviction process will proceed once the landlord has provided the tenant with a 7-Day Notice to Quit, giving the tenant seven business days to move out.
If the tenant remains on the property after the lease has ended, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Eviction Process for No Lease / End of Lease
In the state of Alabama, if tenants “holdover,” or stay in the rental unit after the rental term has expired, then the landlord must give tenants written notice before evicting them. The amount of time required in the notice depends on the type of tenancy.
Often this type of eviction applies to tenants who are at the end of their lease and the landlord doesn’t want to renew.
The amount of time required in the lease termination notice depends on the type of tenancy.
- Month-to-Month – If rent is paid on a month-to-month basis, a landlord must provide the tenant with a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
- Week-to-Week – If rent is paid on a week-to-week basis, a landlord must provide the tenant with a 7-Day Notice to Quit.
If the tenant remains on the property without the landlord’s consent or after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process due to the tenant’s bad faith. The landlord may receive up to three month’s rent or for damages, whichever amount is greater, plus attorney’s fees.
Eviction Process for Material Health / Safety Violation
A tenant can be evicted in Alabama if they violate a health, building, safety, or housing code. In these instances, the landlord is required to provide the tenant with a 7-Day Notice to Comply , giving the tenant seven business days to correct the issue.
Examples of material health/safety violations could include letting trash pile up inside the rental unit, providing a harbor for rodents or bugs, or even things like damaging the electrical wiring in the rental unit.
If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires without correcting the violation, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Eviction Process for Illegal Activity
Tenants of a rental unit who are involved in illegal drug activity, criminal assault, or illegal firearm activity must be given a 7-Day Notice to Quit before the landlord can proceed with an eviction action. In certain cases, such as illegal activity, a landlord does not need to give the tenant an opportunity to fix the violation. Illegal activity includes:
- Illegal firearm activity includes illegally: using, manufacturing, importing, possessing, furnishing, or discharging a firearm on the rental property, unless the firearm was used or discharged in self-defense, or in defense of a third-party.
- Illegal drug activity includes: the manufacture, cultivation, importation, transportation, possession, furnishing, administering, or use of illegal drugs.
- Criminal assault of a tenant or guest on the property, unless in cases of self-defense or defense of a third-party.
If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Step 2: Complaint is Filed and Served
As the next step in the eviction process, Alabama landlords must file a complaint in the appropriate court. For example, in Mobile County, this costs $256 in filing fees, though other counties may vary.
The summons and complaint must be served on the tenant at least six days before the return date of the process, and will be served by the sheriff, constable, or a professional process server—not by the landlord.
The complaint might include the hearing date, but if tenants file an answer to the complaint (step 3 below), they’ll also receive a separate notice of hearing in the mail.
A summons and complaint can be served using any of the following methods:
- Having the sheriff or constable serve a copy of the summons and complaint on the tenant.
- Having the sheriff or constable serve a copy of the summons and complaint on another person who lives in the rental unit.
- Having a professional process server deliver a copy of the summons and complaint on the tenant or another person who lives in the rental unit.
- Posting the notice on the door of the rental unit (only if personal service fails).
If posting the notice, a copy of the summons and complaint must also be mailed to the tenant via first class mail by the next business day. Mailing may be done by anyone, not just a sheriff, constable or professional process server.
~6 days. The summons and complaint must be served on the tenant within six days of the process return date.
Step 3: Answer is Filed
Once the tenants receive the summons and complaint, they must file an answer with the court within seven days of receiving the summons for evictions without a money claim, or within 14 days for evictions with a money claim (i.e. past-due rent owed).
Otherwise, the court may automatically rule in the landlord’s favor.
An “answer” is simply a written document explaining why the tenant believes they shouldn’t be evicted and may be mailed to the court. The answer should also be mailed to the landlord or the landlord’s attorney.
In some Alabama courts, the hearing will be scheduled once the answer is received by the court, while in others the hearing is scheduled when the complaint is filed. Either way, attending the eviction hearing is the next step in the process.
7-14 days, depending on whether the landlord is asking for back rent/other money owed.
Step 4: Court Hearing and Judgment
Alabama laws don’t necessarily specify when a hearing must be held on an eviction case; however, they may take priority over other types of civil cases.
In some locations, the hearing will not be scheduled until after a tenant has filed their answer with the court.
Once the answer is filed, the court will mail a notice of hearing to both the landlord and the tenant, letting them know when the hearing will be held. It is unclear from Alabama law how quickly a hearing will be scheduled after the answer is filed.
Other courts schedule the hearing when the complaint is filed, and if that’s the case in your location, then the summons served on the tenant will include the trial date.
A notice of hearing may still be sent to the parties after the tenant has submitted their answer to the court as a reminder of the hearing date, which again is not specified under Alabama law.
If the tenant fails to appear for the hearing, or no answer was filed, the court will assume the defendant denies every claim made by the landlord and will proceed with the hearing without the defendant.
Either party can request a 15 day continuance for “good cause.”
Appeals. For tenants or landlords who want to appeal the ruling, they have exactly seven days to do so; otherwise, they lose their chance to appeal and the eviction will proceed. The clerk of the court will schedule an appeal hearing within 60 days of the date that the appeal was filed.
The tenant may be required to make rent payments to the appellate court in order to stay (postpone) the eviction until the appeals court makes a ruling on the case. If the tenant fails to make payments, the landlord shall take full possession of the property.
If the appeals court upholds the lower court’s ruling in the landlord’s favor, the eviction will proceed.
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
If the court has ruled in the landlord’s favor, the court will issue a writ of execution once the judgment has been made, returning possession of the property to the landlord.
The writ of execution is the tenant’s final notice to leave the rental unit before the sheriff or constable returns to the property to forcibly remove the tenant.
If any of the tenant’s belongings still remain in the rental unit, the landlord has the right to sell enough of them to pay for the costs of the eviction proceedings.
Immediately. The writ of execution can be issued at the time of the judgment in favor of the landlord (at the hearing).
Step 6: Possession of Property is Returned
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.
7 days. The writ of execution is automatically stayed (postponed) for seven days, per Alabama law.
Alabama Eviction Process Timeline
Below is a summary of the aspects outside of the landlord’s control that dictate the amount of time it takes to evict a tenant in Alabama. With that being said, these estimates can vary greatly, and some time periods may not include weekends or legal holidays.
- Initial Notice Period – 7-30 days.
- Issuance/Service of Summons and Complaint – Approximately 6 days. Summons must be served within 6 days of the return date.
- Answer is Filed – 7-14 days, depending on whether or not there’s a money claim.
- Court Hearing and Ruling on the Eviction – a few weeks; a continuance adds 15 days, an appeal adds up to 67 days.
- Issuance of Writ of Execution – immediately.
- Return of Possession – 7 days.
Flowchart of Alabama Eviction Process