Nearly three million tenants find themselves kicked out of their homes each year, evicted for not paying their rent or violating their leases. With inflation and housing costs on the rise, more and more landlords might find themselves in the tough situation of having to serve notice on their tenants.
While the eviction process is pretty similar from state to state, Alabama is considered a landlord-friendly state. The rules – including Alabama eviction laws – tend to favor them compared to tenants making it a little easier to work your way through the process when you do have to evict a renter.
Let’s take a look at how the process works in the state of Alabama, eviction laws you should know, and tips on avoiding eviction through good screening.
Permitted Reasons Under Alabama Eviction Laws
While landlords have broad power in Alabama to evict someone, you still have to have a proper reason to start the process. The law provides for three basic reasons for eviction:
- Non-payment of rent or late payment
- Lease violations
- Illegal activities
Alabama law considers rent late the day after it’s due unless the lease provides for a grace period. That means that come 12:01 am on the second of the month, you can legally serve notice for eviction for late rent.
Lease violations cover a host of reasons depending on what you have included in your lease. This could be anything from having a pet without permission to failing to mow the lawn.
If you rent without a lease, you can just have them leave with notice equal to one pay period. That means a seven-day notice for week-to-week rentals or 30 days for month-to-month. If they have a fixed-term lease, you have to wait out the lease unless they give you cause to serve notice.
Landlords can’t threaten to evict renters for exercising their tenant rights by filing a safe housing complaint or joining a tenant union. The law also prohibits “self-help” evictions where landlords take action like changing locks or turning off power to try to force a tenant to leave.
Know the Eviction Process in Alabama
Evicting a tenant in Alabama isn’t an overly complicated process, but there are certain timing points and deadlines you need to be very aware of to ensure the eviction is valid. Missing a step or deadline can result in starting over from the beginning.
The steps for eviction include:
- Serve notice to correct or vacate
- File complaint
- Court hearing and judgment
- Writ of execution posted
- Possession of property returned to the landlord
An eviction notice in Alabama is also called an unlawful detainer and varies a bit depending on the reason for the eviction.
For non-payment of rent or a lease violation, the notice gives them the option to remedy the issue or move out. If rent is paid or the problem fixed, the eviction process stops. If the tenant doesn’t fix the issue or move out, the landlord terminates the lease and files for eviction.
The required notice is seven days for non-payment or late rent and 14 days for lease violations.
An unconditional quit notice offers no opportunity to remedy the situation and usually applies when there has been some illegal activity on the property. It also applies if a lease violation occurs again within six months as the landlord is not required to provide the tenant the opportunity to remedy the situation before filing for eviction in that case.
Notices must be delivered in person to the tenant or given to any adult living at the property. If you’re unable to deliver it to a person, you can post the notice on the premises.
You should keep a copy of the notice and a record of when you served it and to whom. You’ll need that documentation if the eviction makes it to a court hearing.
Complaint Filed and Answered
If the tenant does move or remedy the situation, you can file your eviction complaint with the appropriate court. A summons will be sent to the tenant and served by the sheriff, constable, or a professional process server.
After the tenant receives the summons and complaint, they can file an answer with the court. They have seven days to respond if there is no money involved, e.g. a lease violation, or 14 days if the claim is for past-due rent or other monies.
If the tenant doesn’t respond, the court may automatically rule for the landlord.
Court Hearing and Execution
The law provides no specifics for when to hold the hearing, although most courts prioritize eviction hearings over other civil matters. The court mails notice to the tenant and landlord when it has been scheduled. If the tenant fails to show up for the hearing or submit an answer, the court assumes they deny the claim and proceeds without them.
The tenant or landlord may appeal the ruling made by the court within seven days and expect a ruling on the appeal within 60 days from when the appeal is filed.
If the court rules in the landlord’s favor, the writ of execution is issued, which returns their property to their possession. The writ serves as the tenant’s final notice to leave, and they have seven days to do so before the sheriff or constable comes to forcibly remove them.
Better Tenant Screening Means Better Tenants
Even the best tenants can fall behind on rent when inflation hits or a job is lost. But good tenant screening cuts the risk of ending up in a situation that leads to eviction.
For every property, start with setting your minimum requirements for tenants, including income level and credit score. Your application should collect all the details you need to conduct background checks and verify income while ensuring you get the same information from every potential tenant.
The formal tenant screening should include pulling their credit report and conducting a background check. This step allows you to examine their past rental history and review financial stability to determine what kind of tenant they might be. The goal here is to avoid high-risk candidates that turn into problem tenants who need to be evicted down the road.
Manage Your Eviction Risk
While Alabama is considered a landlord-friendly state, navigating the eviction laws in Alabama can still be a tricky business. You need to know all the procedures laid out in the Alabama eviction laws to ensure your eviction is valid. Missing steps or deadlines restarts the process, resulting in more time where you see no rental income.
Looking for ways to avoid evictions? Contact us to learn how our customizable tenant screening can reduce your risk when selecting tenants for the properties you manage in Alabama.