Alabama tenants are protected under Alabama’s Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. One important aspect of this Act is tenants' rights when a landlord requests access to their rental units.
A tenant pays rent and is entitled to privacy in exchange for that rent. A landlord owns the premises and retains the right to a certain amount of access to the units. These aren't necessarily conflicting rights. Landlords can enter the premises, but only after giving notice in most cases.
A landlord must generally provide tenants with at least two days' notice before entering a rental unit, according to the Alabama code. But there are some exceptions.
When a Landlord Doesn't Have to Give Notice
A landlord doesn't have to have a renter’s prior consent before entering the unit in an emergency situation, such as if a fixture in the tenant’s bathroom is overflowing into another unit downstairs.
Landlords don't have to provide tenants with notice prior to entering if they've been granted access by court order.
A request for repairs or maintenance serves as the tenant’s notice that the landlord can enter the unit if the renter contacts the landlord with such a request. The landlord doesn't have to give the typical two days’ notice to enter and make the repairs.
A landlord can enter a unit to perform necessary work if the tenant has failed to respond to the landlord’s written request to remedy a health or safety violation. The problem must be one that can be remedied by cleaning, replacing, or repairing the problem within seven days.
A landlord can enter the premises at times that are reasonably necessary when the renter has been absent from the rental unit for more than 14 days. This could include making necessary repairs or to show the unit to any prospective tenants.
When a Tenant’s Lease Is Expiring
A landlord will also want to show the property to prospective tenants when the existing lease is about to expire and the tenant doesn't plan on renewing the lease.
The landlord and tenant can sign a separate agreement in which the renter acknowledges that the landlord has the right to show the unit to prospective tenants or buyers within four months of the lease expiring. The landlord might still have to give the renter prior notice, but it doesn't necessarily have to be two days.
An Alabama landlord can gain entry into the unit without notifying the renter first when they have “reasonable cause” to believe the tenant has abandoned the unit.
Landlords can provide general notices for repairs, maintenance, pest control, or other health and safety issues in advance. The first notice will suffice in this case and the landlord doesn't have to provide an additional two days’ notice prior to the event.
How Must Notice Be Given?
A landlord should post a notice on a door that the tenant uses as the primary means to enter their dwelling unit. The notice should include the date when the landlord wants to enter, the time, and the purpose of entering the premises.
The renter has already consented to the landlord’s entry and the landlord doesn't have to post a separate notice in cases where the tenant has contacted the landlord about a needed repair or has signed a separate agreement allowing the landlord to show the unit to prospective tenants.
When Can a Landlord Enter?
A landlord can enter a rental unit at “reasonable times" after giving proper notice. Alabama’s statute doesn't specifically define what reasonable times might be, but they're generally considered to be normal business hours. This could be anytime between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
A landlord must enter during these times unless another time has been mutually agreed upon by the landlord and tenant.
Lawful Reasons a Landlord Can Enter
Alabama’s landlord/tenant code explains several lawful reasons a landlord can enter a unit. They include:
- To inspect the premises
- To make necessary repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements
- To make agreed-upon repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements
- To supply necessary or agreed-upon services
- To show the unit to prospective tenants or buyers
- To show the unit to contractors, repairmen, or mortgagees
Can a Tenant Deny a Landlord Entry?
There are situations when a tenant must allow the landlord to gain access to their unit, and there are situations when a renter can deny a landlord entry.
A tenant can deny entry if the landlord didn't give proper notice, arrives at some unreasonable hour, is attempting to enter the unit to harass the renter, or wants to access the unit for a reason that's not lawfully allowed.
But a tenant must allow entry when the landlord has given proper notice and is entering for a legally allowable reason. Renters must allow entry if the landlord wants access due to an emergency, a court order, or any of the other exceptions listed under Alabama code for entering without notice.
Remedies for Abuse of Access
A tenant can seek injunctive relief from a court—an order to stop the behavior—if a landlord attempts to gain unlawful access to the premises. The renter might also be awarded actual monetary damages.
A landlord can obtain injunctive relief from a court as well to gain access when a tenant unlawfully denies entry or landlords can elect to terminate their rental agreements. The landlord might also be awarded actual damages.
Where to Learn More
Consult Alabama’s Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, Section 35-9A-144, Section 35-9A-303, and Section 35-9A-442 to learn more.