Overview: Alabama Landlord & Tenant Bill
A fact sheet made possible by the Ford Foundation Revised February 6, 2003
agreement among a broad set of premises, or increased liability risks
Mrs. G, a Montgomery moth- interests, from Arise to the Realtors to the landlord or premises.
er of two, says it could have
to Habitat for Humanity. That spring
been worse. Fortunately, the Upon termination of the lease, the
the bill was defeated in the House
bedroom was empty when the
Commerce Committee by a 9-to-4 landlord must refund any unused
ceiling fell on her children s
beds. margin. security deposit within 21 days.
Failure to do so will allow the tenant
It was the last straw. In 2001, Rep. Hall asked the non- to recover twice the amount due plus
Frustrated by her unresponsive partisan Alabama Law Institute to reasonable attorney s fees.
landlord, M rs. G m oved o ut. write a neutral bill that could meet
But that wasn t the end of her the concerns of both Arise and the The tenant s responsibilities
problems with him. She soon Realtors. The Law Institute convened
found he rself sum mone d to a distinguished committee, and after Tenants must (1) comply with build-
court, where he demanded that numerous meetings completed work ing and housing codes affecting
she pay the rent for the on the Uniform Residential Landlord health and safety; (2) keep the
remainder of her lease. and Tenant Act in late 2002. premises they occupy as clean and
safe as their condition permits; (3)
It s not an uncom mon occur-
Arise considers the Law Institute bill dispose waste from the dwelling unit
rence in Alabama, where
a fair approach. The major points of in a clean and safe manner; (4) keep
tenants have no legal rights,
unles s the y are spelle d out in
this bill are similar to past landlord- plumbing fixtures as clear as their
the lease . Usually th ey aren t. tenant legislation that Arise condition permits; (5) use in a
supported. Following is an overview reasonable manner all electrical,
of the bill. plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilat-
ing, air conditioning, and other
Responsibilities of the facilities and appliances including
The Uniform Residential landlord elevators; (6) not deliberately or
Landlord and Tenant Bill negligently destroy or damage any
Landlords must (1) comply with the part of the premises or knowingly
Alabama is one of two states (the requirements of applicable building permit anyone to do so; (7) conduct
other is Arkansas) that have no legal and housing codes materially affec- themselves and require others on the
definition of the rights and respon- ting health and safety; (2) make all premises with their consent to
sibilities of landlords and tenants. In repairs and do whatever is necessary conduct themselves in a manner that
1998 and 1999 Arise negotiated with to put and keep the premises in a will not disturb the neighbors.
the Homebuilders Association of habitable condition; (3) keep all
Alabama and the Alabama Associa- common areas of the premises in a Tenants may not prevent landlords
tion of Realtors to create a legal clean and safe condition; (4) maintain from entering dwellings to inspect
definition of a habitable dwelling in good and safe working order and the premises, to make repairs, or to
and to define what would happen if condition all electrical, plumbing, show the dwelling units.
the landlord or the tenant failed to sanitary, heating, ventilating, air
keep it habitable. Unfortunately, the conditioning, and other facilities and Unless otherwise agreed, the tenant
Realtors board of directors voted to appliances, including elevators; (5) may only use the premises as a
oppose the bill that was the result of maintain appropriate receptacles for dwelling unit.
these negotiations. the removal of waste (6) supply
reasonable heat, running water, and Remedies
Despite the Realtors opposition, hot water at all times.
Rep. Laura Hall decided to introduce Landlords or tenants may terminate
the compromise version of the bill, A landlord can t demand a security a lease for material non-compliance
which Arise supported, since that deposit in excess of one month s rent (failure to make repairs, pay rent,
version represented the original except for pets, changes to the etc.) 14 days after written notice. The
notice must specify the breach and landlord will have the work done and Rules of Civil Procedure and the
the date of termination if the breach then submit an itemized bill for the Alabama Rules of Appellate Proce-
is not remedied. tenant to pay with the next rent due. dure 14 days to answer, and 14
days to appeal.
Tenants may not terminate the lease If a landlord unlawfully removes the
for a condition caused by them- tenant from the premises or cuts off Currently, landlords in Birmingham
selves, their family, or someone on utilities, the tenant may recover pos- use the Sanderson Act (7 days to
the premises with their consent. session or terminate the lease. But in answer, 1 day to appeal) and land-
either case, the tenant may recover an lords in the rest of the state use the
Another remedy offered to tenants is amount not more than three months unlawful detainer statute (14 days to
the ability to repair and deduct. If rent or three times the actual dam- answer, 14 days to appeal). Neither
the landlord fails to comply with the ages sustained, whichever is greater, the Sanderson Act nor the unlawful
rental agreement or any of his or her plus reasonable attorney s fees. If the detainer statue will any longer apply
responsibilities, and the reasonable rental agreement is terminated, the to residential rentals if this bill
cost of compliance is less than one- landlord must return the security becomes law.
half of the monthly rent, the tenant deposit and any unused prepaid rent.
may recover damages or may notify Alabama needs a landlord-
the landlord that the tenant intends If the landlord willfully or negligently tenant bill
to correct the condition at the land- fails to supply an essential service
lord s expense. If the landlord does promptly after receiving notice from Nearly 500,000 rental households in
not comply within seven days (or as the tenant, there are several options Alabama have no legal right to live in
promptly as conditions require in an the tenant can pursue. a safe and habitable home. The
emergency), the tenant may arrange typical lease in Alabama gives few
for the work to be done, submit an Even though a landlord cannot place rights to tenants. They have waited
itemized receipt, and deduct the cost a lien on a tenant s property, if the long enough to receive this basic
from the next month s rent. tenant abandons the dwelling or improvement to their quality of life.
leaves property in the rental unit for
Tenants may not repair and deduct more than 14 days after the lease is by Karen Brown
for a condition caused by them- terminated, the landlord may dispose Arise Policy Analyst
selves, their family, or someone on of the tenant s property.
the premises with their consent.
If the tenant is at fault, the landlord
may repair and add. The landlord A landlord s actions for evictions,
may notify the tenant that if a repair rent, monetary damages, or other
is not made within seven days, the relief will be subject to the Alabama
Arise Citizens Policy Project
P. O. Box 1188
Montgomery, AL 36101
ww w.acp p.org
This pape r ma y be r epro duc ed in
who le or in part, a s long as A rise is