What’s the deal with evictions in Alabama?
There are many reasons landlords or property owners may choose to follow through with an eviction in the state of Alabama. Even, in the case of one residential park on Lake Martin, because of failing septic systems.
Early in 2014, the Alabama Power owned Pleasure Point Park and Marina was cited by Tallapoosa County Health officials for unsafe conditions. According to reports, of the 70 properties on the land, 19 had failing or illegal septic systems. Shortly after this revelation, the company told residents they had six months to find new places to live.
The organization also offered dumpsters to help residents clean their properties, a service to help them move their mobile homes off the leased land, and plenty of time to find a new site for them.
This isn’t a great situation for anyone involved, but because the landowners took responsibility for their shortcomings and gave residents plenty of time and assistance to move, they likely avoided costly court battles that many property owners face when dealing with an eviction.
Read on to learn more about following the letter of the law during the eviction process.
What are some reasons I can evict a tenant in Alabama?
Landlords may decide to evict tenants for a number of reasons, including:
- Breaking the terms of the lease
- Unpaid rent
- The termination of month-to-month leases (with a 30-day notice)
Are there situations in which I cannot evict a tenant?
Tenants cannot be evicted as a form of retaliation in Alabama. If, prior to the eviction notice being served, there is proof that the tenant has tried to exercise their legal rights — like joining a tenant organization or reporting health or safety violations — it is the landlords responsibility to prove that the reason for evictions lies outside those actions.
Tenants cannot be evicted for violating added terms to the lease. If a landlord attempts to adopt a new rule or regulation in the lease without written agreement from the tenant, the tenant cannot be evicted for violating it. For example: raising the rent without a proper provision in the lease that allows them to do so and then attempting to evict because of nonpayment.
What is the process normally like?
Because evictions often go to court in Alabama, it may save landlords or property owners time, money, and stress by attempting to resolve the issues without serving an eviction notice.
With that in mind, eviction proceedings cannot be avoided with “self-help” measures. Changing the locks, turning off utilities, or performing any other action to “force” a tenant out is illegal and will likely result in a judge denying your eviction request in court.
Landlords can pursue either an unlawful detainer procedure (a civil eviction), or a failure to vacate procedure (a criminal eviction).
Unlawful detainer proceedings require that the landlord give the tenant written notice to vacate. If they do not vacate within the notice period, the landlord can then proceed by filing a lawsuit in court. See steps below.
Failure to vacate proceedings require the landlord to provide 10 days written notice, and can only be used in the case of nonpayment of rent. If the tenant does not leave the property within the notice timeframe, the tenant can be charged with a misdemeanor, after which they must appear in court and may have to pay up to $25 for each day they remain on the property.
In all other cases:
- Serve a 14- or 7-day notice. To begin the eviction process, written notice must be served to the tenant in person or via a process server, citing the reason for eviction, as well as the tenants name and address. A 14-day notice must be given if the tenant is being evicted for breaking the terms of the lease. A 7-day notice must be given for non-payment of rent. For month-to-month tenants, 30-day notice is required to terminate the lease.
- Allow tenants pay their outstanding rent, if applicable, before their notice is up. Tenants are obligated to pay outstanding rent and fees within this period, but if the landlord or property manager accepts any partial payments, this will void the initial notice to vacate. In this case, tenants can stay in the apartment until the rental period has expired.
- Allow tenants to fix health/safety or noncompliance issues cited in the notice, if applicable. Tenants have up to 14 days to fix or “cure” the problem.
- After the notice period passes, landlords can file and serve a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer. For non-payment of rent, tenants have 14 days to respond. For other reasons, tenants have 7 days to respond. Failure to respond or object to the filing will place the tenant in default and likely result in the judge ruling in the landlord’s favor for eviction proceedings.
- A hearing will take place in front of a judge. Both the landlord and tenant will have the chance to present their sides of the story, but it is up to the landlord to prove that notice was served legally and that the tenant breached their lease agreement.
- A judgement in favor of the landlord may include monetary damages such as past due rent, attorney’s fees, and process fees. Tenants then have 7 days to appeal the ruling.
- After the 7-day appeal period has passed, the landlord can obtain a Writ of Possession. A sheriff will serve the tenant with the Writ if they have not yet vacated the property. They will then have a short time to leave, or the sheriff will forcibly remove them from the property.
- Tenants can still appeal the decision and request a jury trial, but must pay rent during the process.
- If there are possessions left on the property, the landlord has to wait 14 days before disposing of them at his or her own discretion.
Where can I learn more?
If you have any questions, or think you may want to start the eviction process with a tenant in Alabama, please consult a lawyer.
- Unlawful Detainer Act No. 2006-316: Regarding Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act
- NOLO Guide to Termination of Nonpayment of Rent
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