In Alabama, as with any other state, if rent is paid in a timely manner in exchange for inhabiting property, a landlord-tenant relationship is established (even without a written lease), and with this relationship comes rights and responsibilities for both parties.
Basic Landlord Responsibilities
Keep the rental fit to live in. The landlord is required to provide housing that is habitable and to make repairs in a timely manner when required.
Quiet enjoyment. The landlord is required not to disturb the tenant’s rights to peacefully and reasonably use their rented space.
Basic Tenant Responsibilities
Pay rent on time. If the tenant does not pay rent in full and in a timely manner, the landlord has the right to take action to end the tenancy.
Cover excessive damages. Tenants are responsible to cover the costs of damages to the property beyond normal “wear and tear”.
With that said, Alabama varies from other states on additional rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. Alabama law even varies on both the interpretation of the above rights and the rules on handling violations.
Warranty of Habitability in Alabama
Landlord Responsibilities. In Alabama, landlords are responsible for providing certain amenities as part of their obligation to keep their rental units “habitable.” This includes:
- Hot and cold water
- A working HVAC system
- Working plumbing
- Working electric wiring/outlets/lights
- Adequate sanitation facilities
- A garbage receptacle for pickup services
These obligations under Alabama’s warranty of habitability only apply to landlords of single and multi-family dwellings. Alabama law indicates that they do not apply to landlords of condos and does not address if they apply to mobile home landlords.
Also, when it comes to repairs, landlords have 2 weeks to satisfactorily address their tenant’s concerns after receiving a formal request. This applies to all “necessary” amenities described above, as well as any extra amenities (such as a stove or air conditioner) that is explicitly addressed in the lease agreement.
Tenant Responsibilities. Tenants in Alabama are responsible for keeping their premises clean and free of hazards that could cause lasting damage. Should their landlord deem it necessary, these tenants must make repairs or perform cleanings within 7 days.
With regards to repairs that the tenant believes the landlord is responsible for, the tenant is able to make repairs and deduct the associated cost from their next rent payment. However, they cannot withhold rent payments entirely if their landlord fails to make a repair in the established 2-week timeframe.
Evictions in Alabama
In Alabama, landlords are empowered to evict their tenants for several reasons. These include:
- Nonpayment of rent – After the monthly rental payment period passes, a landlord in Alabama must file a 7-day notice to pay rent with their non-compliant tenant. Failure to pay rent during this 7-day period may be used as justification to initiate an eviction if a pattern of non-payment emerges.
- Violation of lease terms – When a violation of the lease terms occur, an Alabama landlord cannot evict their tenant without providing written 14-day notice requesting a remedy for the undesirable behavior. If no change occurs, the landlord is then empowered to provide a 7-Day Additional Quit Notice before filing the eviction with a court.
- Illegal Acts – Alabama enumerates several illegal acts that justify eviction by a landlord following a 7-day termination notice. These include buying, selling, making or using illegal drugs; illegally possessing a firearm or ammo; and committing criminal assault against another tenant or guest. These actions warrant the same eviction process as a regular lease violation.
Evictions without a lease. Alabama requires specific amounts of notice when a tenant rents a unit without entering into a lease agreement. These notices, which must always be in writing, are as follows:
- Week-to-week rental period – 7-day notice
- Month-to-month rental period – 30-days’ notice
Failure to vacate the premises after this period of time may allow a landlord to seek out a legal eviction, which may include reimbursement of missed rent, fees, and other associated costs.
Illegal Evictions. Tenants in Alabama cannot be evicted as a form of retaliation for reporting a known health or safety violation on the landlord’s part. Also, tenants in Alabama cannot be evicted for violating lease terms that were added to their lease without their written permission.
Security Deposits in Alabama
In Alabama, the following statutory standards are set forth with regards to security deposits:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – In Alabama, a security deposit’s value cannot exceed the value of a single month’s rent. This does not include extra deposits, such as those for pets.
- Time Limit for Return – Landlords in Alabama have 60 days to return a security deposit after a lease agreement ends. This includes when deductions are being made for “damages.”
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – If the security deposit is not returned in the 60-day time frame, landlords in Alabama are required to pay double the value of the original deposit.
- Allowable Deductions – Landlords in Alabama may make deductions from a security deposit to offset the cost of two factors: missed rent payments and “damages.” “Damages” differ from “normal wear and tear” primarily based upon its cause, that being negligence, abuse, or carelessness.
Additionally, no landlord in Alabama is required to obtain or pay out interest on the security deposits that they maintain.
Lease Termination in Alabama
Notice Requirements. In Alabama, when provisions for an alternative notice requirement are not set forth in a lease agreement, tenants must provide the following amounts of notice based upon the length of their rental period:
- Week-to-week – 7 days’ written notice is required.
- Month-to-month – 30 days’ written notice is required.
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. Early termination clauses are the most common method of breaking a lease early in Alabama. However, in lieu of a new agreement on this topic, tenants in Alabama are able to legally end their lease early under one of the following circumstances:
- Active Military Duty – federal law allows service members who are relocating due to deployment or permanent change of station to terminate their lease as early as 30 days from the next rent period.
- Unit is Uninhabitable – A tenant can become “constructively evicted” if their rental unit becomes uninhabitable according to relevant state and local health and safety codes. This constitutes a lease violation on the landlord’s part and may be used as justification for termination after a 14-day period passes.
- Landlord Harassment – If a landlord abuses their right to entry to invade a tenant’s privacy or ability to peacefully enjoy their rented unit, such a pattern may be used to justify termination of their lease. This includes not providing the proper 2-day notice for some forms of entry as well as changing the locks without the tenant’s permission.
If a tenant in Alabama is to legally break their lease early, they are still liable to pay all rent and fees for the remaining leasing period. This excludes when a new tenant (which the landlord must seek out in a “reasonable” and timely manner) is found and takes over the lease.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Alabama
Rent control & increases. Alabama does not currently require its landlords to provide any advance notice before raising the rent. Alabama also does not cap the rate or value at which rent is increased, requiring only that rent be paid in a consistent and recurring manner that the landlord and tenant agree upon in their lease. In a similar manner, Alabama does allow its landlords and tenants to agree upon a prior notice standard for rent increases in their lease.
Landlords in Alabama are prohibited from raising rent for several reasons though. Whether stated explicitly or implicitly, these landlords cannot apply rent increases in a discriminatory manner against a protected class of tenants. They also cannot use a rent increase as a form of retaliation, especially against tenants who report health or safety code violations.
Rent related fees. Though their laws do not cover the topic specifically, it is generally agreed upon that landlords in Alabama are able to begin charging late fees after the grace period for rent payment expires. In the same vein, the value of these late fees are not capped by the state.
However, Alabama’s state laws do address bounced or returned check fees. When this occurs, a landlord can only charge up to $30 plus the cost of collecting said fees.
Housing Discrimination in Alabama
Federal Protections. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. However, the law does not apply to all housing, such as owner-occupied homes with 4 or fewer units or housing operated by religious organizations.
State Protections. Alabama’s current fair housing law does not extend special protections to any classes of people beyond those outlined in the federal Fair Housing act.
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. Alabama’s fair housing laws do explicitly outline several activities or behaviors that may constitute discrimination when they are targeted at one or more protected classes of current or prospective renters. These activities include:
- Refusing to rent or sell based on a bona fide offer
- Providing differing terms, conditions, or privileges when selling or leasing
- Print or publish adds describing or alluding to preference or limitations that amount to discrimination
- Imply that a rentable unit is unavailable when it is actually available
Penalties for infractions of these discrimination codes are not spelled out in Alabama’s current laws. However, the Alabama Fair Housing Act does set forth the procedure for registering and litigating a discrimination complaint with the state.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Alabama
Included below are several other types of landlord tenant laws that may become important to understand over the course of a leasing relationship in Alabama.
Landlord Entry. In most cases, a landlord is able to enter a rented unit only after providing 2 days’ notice to the unit’s occupants. This form of notice must be provided in writing and must be posted upon the tenant’s door, when applicable. These provisions apply to most reasons for non-emergency entry by a landlord, including to make repairs or show the space to prospective renters.
In emergency situations, a landlord in Alabama is able to enter a rented unit without notice, though.
Small Claims Court. Some types of landlord-tenant related disputes can be litigated in Alabama’s small claims court. Claims made through this channel can only be valued at up to $6,000 and come with a 6 year statute of limitations for most cases involving written or oral contracts.
Mandatory Disclosures. Landlords in Alabama are required to disclose certain types of information to their tenants at the beginning of their lease. These disclosures include the following and may be provided through several means, including in the lease itself or through a separate agreement:
- Lead-based paint. For houses built prior to 1978, federal law requires landlords to provide tenants with information about lead based paint hazards. Read more.
- Authorized Authorities. Landlords in Alabama must disclose the name and address of any and all parties authorized manage a tenant’s rental unit in writing. This written disclosure must also include the name of a unit’s owner or an individual certified to act on the owner’s behalf.
Changing the Locks. Alabama does not currently provide specific provisions relating to when locks can and cannot be changed. This includes a lack of clarity relating to whether locks can be changed periodically by the landlord or whether a tenant can request a lock change when they provide proof of current domestic abuse/sexual harassment.
Local Laws in Alabama
Landlord tenant rights are not exclusively governed by state law. Cities and counties may enact their own rules and regulations for renters.
Birmingham Landlord Tenant Rights
Alabama’s largest city does not set forth a supplementary set of landlord tenant laws at this time. However, they do maintain a health and safety code that may go above and beyond the standards set forth by the state. Landlords and tenants living in Birmingham should consider reviewing these hazard-related standards to ensure that they understand the city’s primary methods for submitting potential code violations.