Read further to learn more about the eviction process in Alabama and how many days’ notice are required in which situations.
What’s an Eviction Notice?
An eviction notice is a legal form of disclosure that lets a tenant know that they are in clear violation of their lease agreement, and either need to correct the issue or vacate the premises. If the tenant fails to take action after proper legal notice is given, the landlord may evict the tenant. When a landlord provides written legal notice to a tenant to correct a violation of the lease agreement, it is referred to as a “Notice to Quit.”
Alabama state law governs the eviction process. Landlords in Alabama must first serve a “Notice to Quit” to the tenant before filing a court action called an “unlawful detainer,” which is the legal term for an eviction.
There are three types of Notice to Quit documents approved for use under Alabama law. They are the 30-days notice for a month-to-month tenant, the seven-days notice for non-payment of rent, and the seven-days notice for a lease violation(s).
“Service” is a legal term that describes the legal methods that can be used to deliver a written notice to a tenant. Under Alabama law, service is legally achieved by one of the following methods:
- Personal Service: Hand the notice directly to the tenant in person.
- Substituted Service: Hand the notice directly to an adult person who is authorized to be living in the rental unit.
- Mail Service: Send the notice in the first class mail to the tenant at the address of the rental unit. It is not required but it is a good idea to send the letter as certified and return receipt requested to have a receipt of the delivery for the records.
30-Days Notice for Month-to-Month Rental Agreements
This is the notice to use if a tenant is paying rent properly, not damaging the rental unit, and has a month-to-month rental agreement. In this case, the landlord needs only to serve a proper Notice to Quit, which gives the tenant the required minimum amount of time. The tenant may also use the same type of notice to inform the landlord of the tenant’s desire to terminate a month-to-month rental agreement.
The minimum time allowed under Alabama law is 30 days from the next rental payment date. For example, if the tenant paid rent on the proper date yesterday, then the 30 days starts counting from the next rental payment date. This could be up to 60 days later.
Landlords are well advised to speak to the tenants and personally give them the Notice to Quit if they have a month-to-month agreement. This is a more effective and a nicer way to do this unless the tenant is not paying rent or is damaging the property and is combative. By talking in person with the tenant, the tenant may be more cooperative in moving out on time and leaving the rental unit in a good condition.
It helps if the notice is given ahead of time and if the landlord explains the need for the rental unit, which is motivating the termination of the rental agreement. In other words, talking with the tenant is a gentler way to do this rather than sheepishly slipping a written notice under the door, which is not proper service anyway.
For non-payment of rent or violations under a month-to-month agreement, a landlord should use one of the seven-day notices described in the sections below.
Seven-Days Notice to Quit for Non-Payment of Rent
Alabama law under Section 35-9A-421(b) gives the tenant seven business days to pay the rent after the landlord gives a written notice.
Landlords in Alabama may wish to give the tenant an additional grace period before issuing a written notice. This is not required by law but optional at the landlord’s sole discretion. Some landlords use an escalation in the late payment fees for the additional time that the rent is late.
The grace period and any late fees should be clearly stated in the rental agreement. Alabama law places no limits on late fees. The demand for unpaid rent and the amount of the separate late fees, as per the written agreement, is made by the same written notice.
If there is no additional grace period, then the day after the rent is due is the first day that a landlord may issue a Seven-Days Notice to Quit for non-payment of rent. The seven days do not include Saturdays or Sundays.
For example, if the Notice to Quit is served to the tenant on a Saturday, the tenant has until the next week of business days, Monday through Friday, passes, then skipping the next weekend, plus two more business days or Tuesday of the following week, to pay the rent before the landlord can file an eviction. Therefore, the seven business days might require up to 11 calendar days to account for the weekends.
If the tenant cures the problem (by paying the rent) within the seven days, the landlord cannot file for an eviction. Payment of the rent is all that is needed. Even if there is a late payment due as well, it is still owed by the tenant. However, non-payment of a late fee is not sufficient grounds for eviction.
Seven-Days Notice to Quit for Lease Violations
Alabama law recognizes different kinds of lease violations and a landlord’s rights differ depending on the type of violation(s) and whether the same violation occurs more than once within a 12-month period.
The lease or month-to-month rental agreement may state the usage rules of a rental unit that includes such things as not disturbing others, not creating hazards (fire, health, or otherwise), and restrict the use of the rental property in certain ways such as the number of authorized occupants, not allowing smoking in the rental unit, or not allowing pets. The rules must be fairly applied to all tenants and cannot be discriminatory.
Alabama Law Applies for Certain Violations
Under Section 35-9A-421(d) if a tenant violates a provision of the agreement and receives written notice of the violation to cure the problem (stop the violation) within seven business days, and gets the same notice twice within a 12-month period, the tenant can still be evicted even if they stop the violation.
For example, if the lease states that a tenant cannot play loud music or make noise that disturbs other tenants after 10 pm and gets written notice to stop doing this twice within the same year, the landlord has the option to move forward with an eviction even if the tenant stopped playing loud music after 10 pm within seven business days of getting each written notice.
Legal Reasons for Automatic Evictions
If a tenant does certain things, under Alabama law, they have no right to cure the violation and then to remain in the rental unit. The landlord can give the Seven-Days Notice to Quit for these specific violations even if not stated in the lease agreement and move ahead with eviction proceedings thereafter.
The law covers the following specific circumstances:
- Illegal Drugs: This includes manufacturing, possessing, using, and furnishing (sale) of illegal drugs to others, in the rental unit and/or the common areas.
- Illegal Use of Firearms: This includes illegal manufacture, possession, or use of firearms and ammunition and/or the discharge of a firearm on the premises, except for the case of self-defense or permissible defense of a third party.
- Criminal Assault: This includes criminal assault on any tenant or guest on the premises, except for self-defense and permissible defense of a third party.
Alabama Notice to Quit Forms
The three types of Notice to Quit forms are standardized documents identifying the tenant, the rental unit, and the landlord. They give the date of the notice and the number of days that the tenant has to comply or to move (in the case of a 30-days notice for a month-to-month agreement).
Some landlords like to use a comprehensive document that has all the different reasons for a Notice to Quit that can be checked off as needed by using a checkbox next to the information regarding the particular circumstances.
Alabama Legal Eviction Notice
After the landlord properly serves the Notice to Quit and the tenant fails to cure the problem (pay the past due rent and/or stop the violation) the landlord can move forward with eviction by filing a legal complaint with a court of proper jurisdiction.
The legal complaint is called an unlawful detainer. The Alabama courts have a standard form that may be used to file this called the Complaint/Statement of Claim Form No. C-59.
Along with filing the unlawful detainer complaint with the proper court, the landlord needs to submit to the court a written, signed “Certificate of Service” that shows the date the Notice to Quit was served and how it was served to the tenant.
The landlord also pays a filing fee to the court as well (as of May 2019, the filing fee is $256 plus $10 extra for each additional defendant).
The landlord is required to serve a copy of the court filing document to the tenant. This is done in a special way that must use the sheriff’s office that is located in the proper county, where the rental unit is located, to send the tenant a certified letter.
After the tenant receives the certified letter, the tenant has seven business days to file an answer. A tenant may use a standard Answer Form No. PS-01.
Once these seven business days pass, the court assigns the case a hearing date. Both the landlord (or the landlord’s attorney) and the tenant must appear. If the judge rules in the landlord’s favor, the tenant has seven business days to appeal.
If the tenant appeals the judge’s ruling, a hearing is scheduled for the appeal. If the judge for the appeal rules against the tenant, then the tenant must vacate the premises. If the tenant refuses to vacate, the landlord can ask the sheriff to physically remove the tenant from the rental unit.
Under Alabama law, a landlord may recover actual damages plus reasonable attorney’s fees and/or obtain injunctive relief if a tenant violates any provision of the rental agreement. As part of the eviction proceedings, a landlord may request the judge to make these awards with the ruling.