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Read further to learn more about the room rental process in Alabama and how many days’ notice are required in which situations.
What is a Room Rental Agreement?
A room rental agreement is a legal contract that defines the rights and expectations of all people that reside in a rental unit, including individuals not listed on the original residential lease between the landlord and master tenant.
Sharing a place with a roommate is a great way to help pay the rent and utility bills. It is also a legal arrangement and needs to be dealt with correctly by using proper legal documentation. The Alabama Roommate Agreement is used to describe the terms and conditions of the relationship between the parties sharing a “rental unit,” which could be a home, apartment, mobile home, or another type of residential dwelling.
This agreement sets up the general rules of use concerning shared space in a rental unit, such as a bathroom, kitchen, dining room, and living room. It describes who pays what portion of any utility bills and expenses for services that are shared. It states who pays for routine repairs to the rental unit if they are needed. It says who has the responsibility for cleaning the rental unit, what areas they are responsible for cleaning, and on what schedule.
The Alabama Roommate Agreement is similar to a sublease agreement because it is used to rent out a portion of the rental unit space. Therefore, it is necessary to have a landlord’s permission, in writing, to have a roommate. If this permission is not already granted by the master lease for the rental unit, then a written addendum (additional page) needs to be added to the master lease to allow this.
The landlord should be notified, in writing, if a new roommate moves in. The landlord should sign and return one copy of the notice giving permission for this change. Having the landlord sign the Alabama Roommate Agreement is another way to achieve this. This creates permission for a roommate to become an authorized occupant, instead of a guest.
It is important to have the landlord’s written acknowledgment that a roommate is an authorized occupant because many lease agreements have a very short time limit for how long a guest may reside in the rental unit. Violating the guest rules in the lease, even if by accident, may be grounds for a landlord to evict a tenant.
Alabama Roommate Agreement must comply with Alabama state law, which covers all forms of rental agreements. The state law is Alabama Code section 35 – 9, which is called the Landlord and Tenant Act.
Alabama state law requires the following:
- Security Deposit: A security deposit cannot exceed one month’s rent.
- Pet Deposit: If certain qualified pets are allowed under the lease and the New Tenant has a qualifying pet, an additional pet deposit may be required. The pet deposit amount is not limited by the law.
- Lead-Paint Notice: If the property was built before 1978, every tenant must be given a copy of the lead-paint hazard notice and the brochure about this hazard published by the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Landlord and/or Property Manager Contact Information: The New Tenant needs to know how to contact the landlord and/or the property manager for the rental unit in the case of an emergency.
While not required by Alabama state law, it is a good idea to give any roommate a copy of the master lease for the rental unit and have them sign off that they agree to follow the rules as stated in the master lease.
How to Create an Alabama Room Rental Agreement
The task of creating a room rental agreement usually falls to the landlord of the property. Landlords possess experience with rentals that make them uniquely able to anticipate conflict between roommates and address these in the agreement. This guide contains step-by-step instructions for creating a room rental agreement in the state of Alabama.
Identify All the Parties by Name and Description in the Agreement
In the Alabama Roommate Agreement, a new roommate is identified as the “New Tenant.” The person who is the signer on the master lease for the rental unit is identified as the “Principal Tenant/Landlord.” The principal tenant is also called a landlord because rent is paid by the New Tenant to him or her. The rent from the New Tenant is then added to other money for the rent and paid by the Principal Tenant/Landlord to the rental unit landlord who is identified in the master lease. Any other roommates that are already tenants before a New Tenant moves in are identified by name in the agreement as “Current Co-Tenant(s).”
Add the Dates
Add the start and end dates of the rental period for the roommate agreement. The New Tenant must be allowed to move in on the date that the rental period starts.
Show the amount of the security deposit. This amount cannot be more than one-month’ s rent. It should be paid before the New Tenant moves in. This deposit must be refunded within 60 days after the New Tenant vacates the rental unit at the end of the rental period. Any repairs that are the obligation of the New Tenant can be deducted from the security deposit, as long as an itemized list of the repair costs for labor and materials is given with the refund of the balance (if any) remaining of the security deposit.
Show the amount of the pet deposit (if any). This amount is not limited by state law. It should be paid before the New Tenant moves in. This deposit must be refunded within 60 days after the New Tenant vacates the rental unit at the end of the rental period. Any necessary repairs due to damage by the New Tenant’s pet can be deducted from the pet deposit as long as an itemized list of the repair costs for labor and materials is given with the refund of the balance (if any) remaining of the pet deposit.
If the New Tenant and/or the New Tenant’s pet (if any) creates damage to the rental unit that exceeds the security and/or pet deposit and the New Tenant does not pay for the repairs, the Principle Tenant/Landlord has the right under Alabama law to sue the New Tenant for the actual repair costs for the excessive damages plus reasonable attorney’s fees.
Show the rent amount and whether it is to be paid weekly or monthly. Identify the day of the week or the month that the rent is to be paid and to whom the rent is to be paid. Include information about late fees (if any) that are charged for rent payments that are late and when they are charged (the number of calendar days after the rent is due).
In this section, make a very clear statement about the utilities and how the bills for utilities will be apportioned among the co-tenants.
Describe the process of how any disputes are to be settled. This may include mediation or binding arbitration, if desired, to avoid the high cost of legal action in the courts.
Indicate that this written agreement is the full and complete agreement between the parties. Any changes to this agreement must be made in writing, signed and agreed to by both parties.
This section says that the Alabama Landlord and Tenant Act law applies to this agreement and is incorporated in the agreement by reference.
Under Alabama state law, only the New Tenant and the Principle Tenant/Landlord must sign this agreement. It may be a good idea, even though it is not required, to have the rental unit landlord also sign the agreement and be given a copy of it. This helps to avoid any misunderstandings about who is authorized to live in the rental unit.
If there is more than one roommate and the rooms are different sizes with different amenities then the rental rate per room can be different. To be fair, use the square footage of the bedrooms as a guide in calculating the rent per roommate.
Here is an example calculation for a rental unit that is 1,500 square feet and has three bedrooms. One bedroom is 200 square feet, one is 300 square feet, and one is 500 square feet. The other 500 square feet to make up 1,500 square feet in total is for common use areas. This includes a shared bathroom and kitchen with a small dining area. The total rental unit rents for $1,000 per month.
Ignore the common areas when making the rent allocations and only use the square footage of the rooms. In this case, the room allocations for the total 1,000 square feet of bedroom space are 20% or $200 for the bedroom that is 200 square feet, 30% or $300 for the bedroom that is 300 square feet, and 50% or $500 for the bedroom that is 500 square feet. This is a fair way to divide up the space and the total rent.
Roommate Matching Services
Roommate matching services may be a good way to find roommates. If this is a paid service, it is better if they conduct background and credit checks on their referrals (with the written permission to do so).
Getting a good roommate is important because of the serious troubles that a bad roommate can cause.
Potential Issues with Roommates
The most common troubles are roommates who are irresponsible. They may fail to pay their share of the rent and/or utilities on time. They may fail to clean up the things they are supposed to clean. They may bring unwanted guests to the rental unit that disturb the peaceful enjoyment of the space by the other tenants. They can be noisy, aggressive, messy, disrespectful, party too much, and literally drive all the other roommates crazy by their bad behavior.
Privacy issues come up frequently as well. Private bedrooms should be off-limits to others without permission to enter, except in the case of an emergency. Door locks on interior bedroom doors can be very helpful in this regard.
The wise saying is that “If you really want to get to know someone, live with them for a while.” Millions of roommates get along just fine. In fact, it is now more common to share spaces than before because the rents are so high. Just be careful, without discriminating, about who is going to become a roommate. Be open with communication, polite, yet direct, if a roommate is getting out of line. Eviction of a roommate is a messy and expensive process that should only be used as a last resort.