In Alaska, 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, Alaska varies from other states on additional rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. Alaska law even varies on both the interpretation of the above rights and the rules on handling violations.
Warranty of Habitability in Alaska
Landlord Responsibilities. Landlord in Alaska are required to maintain their rental properties in a “fit and habitable condition.” This includes becoming responsible for certain types of repairs and providing certain amenities, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Ensuring there are no leaks in any walls, floors, roofs, windows, and doors
- Providing and maintaining working plumbing
- Providing hot and cold water access with adequate water pressure
- Providing and maintaining a working stove and oven
- Providing and maintaining a working a working heating system
- Providing and maintaining a safe electric system
- Providing and maintaining a windows or fans to that allow for “fresh air”
- Provide safe garbage receptacles and providing for said garbage’s routine removal
- Exterminate pests in a timely manner
- Providing and maintaining a set of working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
These above duties and more can also be assigned to a tenant, but only through a special agreement made in writing as part of the standard lease.
In terms of repairs, a landlord in Alaska is responsible for addressing and resolving the issue within 10 days of a written request from their tenant. This requirement only applies to “essential” services within the rented space.
Tenant Responsibilities. Tenants in Alaska are responsible for keeping their premises “clean and safe,” which includes removing garbage and making minor fixes to plumbing and electronics. This also includes maintaining all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. When a tenant is informed of a problem with any of these conditions, they have 3 or 5 days to remedy it (depending on the severity).
When it comes to making significant repairs, though, a tenant in Alaska is empowered to complete repairs on their own, but only after 10 days pass after providing their landlord with written notice of the issue at hand. These tenants can then deduct these repair costs from their next rent payment.
Evictions in Alaska
In Alaska, landlords are empowered to evict their tenants for several reasons, including the following:
- Nonpayment of rent – After the standard rent payment period passes, landlords can provide a Notice to Quit that informs the tenant of their violation. Tenants have 7 days to act on this type of notice before further legal actions are taken.
- Violation of lease terms – Tenants in Alaska may be justifiably evicted for breaking the terms of their lease. Most violations require their landlord to provide a 10-Day Notice before acting on such an eviction. However, a failure to pay allotted utility bills may justify only a 5-Day Notice. Also, causing more than $400 in damage may justify a mere 24-hour notice to quit.
- Illegal Acts – Illegal acts always justify a 5-day notice to quit on the landlord’s part. Applicable illegal acts under Alaska law include (but are not limited to): acts of prostitution; gambling; sale or production of alcohol; and the sale or production of illegal drugs.
If the tenant does not remedy the situation or vacate the premises as required within the notice period, the landlord may proceed with the legal eviction process by filing a Forcible Entry and Detainer lawsuit with the local court.
Evictions without a lease. In Alaska, non-leased tenants can only be expected to vacate their premises after receiving a 30-day notice requesting them to take such action. This 30-day period initiates at the beginning of the next rental period when applied to a month-to-month rental scheme
Illegal Evictions. Tenants in Alaska cannot be evicted in retaliation for reporting a perceived violation of health or safety codes on their landlord’s part. This same protection applies when a tenant exercises their rights under the state’s landlord tenant laws.
Tenants in Alaska are not obliged to pay rent that was increased beyond their leased terms. Failure to pay this increased rate cannot be used as justification for eviction. Also, joining of any organization (including a union) cannot be used as grounds for eviction.
Security Deposits in Alaska
In Alaska, the following statutory standards are applied to tenants with regards to security deposits:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – Alaska only allows security deposits to be valued at up to twice the amount of standard rent. This does not include additional deposits made for pets. Also, rental units with a rent rate at over $2,000 may not be held to this standard.
- Maintaining Deposits and Interest – All security deposits must be maintained in a special bank account. While in their possession, these deposits cannot be used for anything but the purposes outlined in the lease agreement. Alaska does not indicate whether said deposits must incur interest, nor if that interest must be paid out.
- Time Limit for Return – If no deductions are necessary, landlords in Alaska have 14 days to mail the full value of their tenant’s deposit. However, if deductions are necessary, the remaining value of the deposit must be mailed within 30 days.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – Failure to return all or part of a security deposit may require a landlord to pay out double the value of the held deposit if the tenant legally pursues the issue.
- Allowable Deductions – Landlords may make deductions from a security deposit to cover damages incurred by their rented unit. These chiefly include those arising from non-compliance with the state-mandated tenant responsibilities. Also, a security deposit cannot be used of a last month’s rent.
Lease Termination in Alaska
Notice Requirements. Under amicable circumstances, landlords and tenants in Alaska must provide the following amounts of notice of their intent to vacate when a formal lease is not available:
- Week-to-week – 14 days’ notice is required.
- Month-to-month – 30 days’ notice is required.
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. In Alaska, most early lease breaking occurs under the auspices of a previously-agreed to early termination clause in a lease agreement. However, in the absence of this or a seperate agreement, a tenant may break a lease early for one or more of the following reasons:
- 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 may be “constructively evicted” if the unit is no longer deemed habitable due to their landlord’s negligent management of their legal warrant of habitability. This includes “material non-compliance” with applicable health and safety codes.
- Landlord Harassment – Tenants may justify the early termination of a lease if their landlord regularly abuses their established right of entry. This includes entering without providing adequate notice, as defined in their lease. Also, unilaterally changing any locks may constitute an abuse of power worthy of early lease termination by the effected tenant.
If a legal method of breaking a lease is unattainable, then the tenant is required to continue paying rent until the lease period ends. This includes if they vacate the premises. However, this obligation to pay ends if a tenant is found to take over the lease. Landlords in Alaska are required to take such re-renting actions “quickly.”
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Alaska
Rent control & increases. Alaska only requires prior notice of rent increases in cases of month-to-month tenancy, at which point 30 days of advance notice are required before said rent increase can take effect. However, Alaska does not cap how much at what rate, or how frequently these increases can take place (though it is assumed that they cannot occur more than once per 30 day period).
Landlords in Alaska are explicitly prohibited from applying a rent increase as an explicit or implicit retaliation for certain tenant actions, including reporting perceived health/safety code violation or joining/creating a tenant union. These landlords cannot also apply a retaliatory rent increase as a matter of discrimination against a protected class under state or federal law.
Rent related fees. Generally speaking, rent-related fees are only allowed in Alaska when they are agreed to by both the landlord and tenant in their lease agreement. However, automatic late rent payment fees may not be enforceable based upon their implementation. Some types of flat-rate fees and per-day charges may be allowed, subject to the state’s relevant usury laws.
These same state-wide provisions apply to so-called “bounced check” charges, as well. Like the late rent fees, these insufficient fund fees are not capped in terms of their per instance value or overall value.
Housing Discrimination in Alaska
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. Alaska protects several other classes of people through the state’s fair housing laws. In addition to the classes outlined in the federal Fair Housing Act, Alaska also protects pregnant individuals from discrimination, as well as people targeted due to their current or changed marital status.
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. Alaska enumerates several activities precipitated by landlords and their associates in the leasing process that may amount to discrimination. These activities include the following:
- Claiming that a unit is “taken” despite remaining vacant without just cause
- Charging higher rent or fees than those advertised or on file for the same or a similar unit
- Applying different general rules to some tenants but not to others
- Advertising a unit available for rent with explicit or implicit indications of preference against a protected class
Alaska’s consumer-oriented documentation does not outline specific penalties for precipitating these kinds of discrimination. However, it does implore those who feel that they have been a victim of this kind of discrimination to report it to the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Alaska
These are just a few of the other landlord-tenant-related categories of regulation that you may encounter over the course of your leasing relationship in Alaska.
Landlord Entry. Landlords in Alaska are allowed to enter a rented unit, but only after providing 24 hours of advance notice stating their reason for needing to enter. This provision applies to most non-emergency reasons for entry by the landlord, including the need to make repairs or show the unit to prospective renters.
Also, even with 24 hours of prior notice, a landlord in Alaska can only enter at a “reasonable” time, which is generally interpreted to imply between the hours of 8am and 5pm (though this window can be adjusted through the terms of a lease agreement). These requirements for notice and timing do not apply during emergency situations, however.
Small Claims Court. Alaska allows tenants and landlords to settle disputes over matters of $10,000 or less in value through their small claims court system. Eviction cases (including those focused on forcible entry and detainer) are heard by the state’s District or Superior Courts, however. Cases involving a written or oral contract carry a 3 year statute of limitations as well, while those involving “real property damage” carry a 6 year statute of limitations instead.
Mandatory Disclosures. Currently, Alaska only requires that its landlords provide their tenants with federally-mandated disclosures relating to lead-based paint (when the building in question was built in or before 1978). More information regarding this kind of hazard and its related disclosures can be found here.
Changing the Locks. During the course of a lease, a tenant in Alaska is only allowed to change their locks if they receive permission for the same in writing from their landlord. The only exception to this rule is in cases of emergency, at which point the tenant can unilaterally change the lock and inform their landlord of the same within 5 days. In either case, the landlord must receive new key copies promptly after the lock change takes place.
Local Laws in Alaska
Landlord tenant rights are not exclusively governed by state law. Cities and counties may enact their own rules and regulations for renters.
Anchorage Landlord Tenant Rights
The Municipality of Anchorage (which operates as both a city and a borough) provides several extra landlord-tenant-related provisions that go above and beyond those set forth by the state of Alaska. For example, it is illegal to refuse to rent to someone in Anchorage because of their age. Several other major jurisdictions in Alaska maintain similar provisions, all of which can be found detailed at the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights website.