The state of Alabama has codes in place which deal with the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. This code is commonly referred to as the Alabama Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.
The act allows both landlords and tenants to understand what is lawfully expected of them once they enter into a residential lease agreement. Here are seven basic rights of tenants in the state of Alabama.
If you are interested in viewing the original text of Alabama’s landlord-tenant act, please consult Alabama Landlord-Tenant Code §§ 35-9-1 to 35-9-100 and Alabama Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act §§ 35-9A-101 to 35-9A-603.
Alabama Tenant’s Right to Equal Opportunity Housing
Tenants in the state of Alabama have the right to freedom from discrimination in housing-related activities. However, unlike most states, there is no statewide fair housing law that specifically protects tenants in Alabama. Instead, Alabama tenants must rely on protection under the Federal Fair Housing Act.
The Federal Fair Housing Act protects seven classes of people. These include:
- Disability (physical and mental)
- Familial status
- National origin
These classes are protected from discrimination when they are renting a property, trying to buy a property, while they are living in the property, or when they are trying to obtain a loan or other financing for a property.
Landlords must be very careful not to perform any action which could be considered a discriminatory rental practice. Examples of discriminatory actions could include:
- Stating in a rental ad that families with children need not apply—unless it is a designated senior citizen housing facility.
- Refusing to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities.
- Engaging in a retaliatory rent increase in an effort to force a family out of a unit because of their race.
Alabama Rental Security Deposits
Alabama’s Landlord-Tenant Act—Section 35-9A-201—includes a provision for the security deposit. A security deposit is a sum of money a landlord is legally allowed to collect from a tenant before they allow them to move in.
In Alabama, a landlord can charge a tenant a maximum of one month’s rent as a security deposit. However, the landlord may also be allowed to charge an additional deposit for pets or for changes to the unit.
Besides the maximum amount a landlord can charge as a security deposit, Alabama does not have many other specific rules for how a landlord must store a tenant’s security deposit. Alabama does not require a walk-through inspection before the tenant moves out and does not require the deposit to be kept in a separate interest-bearing account.
Alabama does require the landlord to return the portion of the tenant’s security deposit that is owed back to them within 35 days of moving out. This must be sent to the tenant’s last known address via first-class mail.
Tenant’s Right to Withhold Rent for Repairs
The Landlord-Tenant Law Sections 35-9A-164; 35-9A-204; 35-9A-401; 35-9A-404 and 35-9A-405 pertain to withholding rend in lieu of repairs. Certain states allow tenants to withhold their rental payment until a necessary repair or health and safety violation in their unit has been remedied.
Alabama is not one of those states. A tenant has the responsibility to pay their rent on time. The tenant, however, does have the right to provide written notice to the landlord that the necessary repairs must be made to the unit within 14 days or the lease agreement will be terminated.
Tenant’s Right to Receive Notice Before Landlord Entry
In Alabama, a tenant usually has the right to receive notice before a landlord is allowed to enter their rental unit as defined in sections 35-9A-144; 35-9A-303 and 35-9A-442.
In most circumstances, a landlord must provide the tenant with at least two days’ notice before being allowed entry into the tenant’s unit. There are certain situations, such as in emergencies or under a court order, when the landlord does not have to provide these two days’ notice to enter.
A tenant must usually grant the landlord access if the landlord has given proper notice and the landlord is trying to enter the unit for a lawful reason, such as to show the unit to a prospective tenant or to make a necessary repair.
Tenants’ Rights After Landlord Retaliation
Landlord retaliation is judged under section 35-9A-204; 35-9A-401(b); 35-9A-407 and 35-9A-501. Retaliatory conduct by a landlord is never allowed. An example of a retaliatory action could be if a landlord raises a tenant’s rent after the tenant complained to the city about a possible health or safety issue.
In Alabama, if a landlord attempts to retaliate against a tenant, the tenant has certain rights. The tenant could be awarded possession of the rental unit if they have been illegally evicted or the tenant can elect to terminate the rental agreement. In either case, the tenant may be awarded up to three months’ period rent or actual damages, whichever is greater, plus reasonable attorney’s fees.
Alabama Tenant’s Right to Rent Disclosure
In Alabama, tenants have certain rights when it comes to rent disclosures as defined in section Sec. 35-9A-161-164 and 35-9A-421. This includes the amount of monthly rent, where rent is to be paid, and the length of the lease agreement.
A landlord has certain rights under this section if a tenant fails to pay rent. The landlord can provide written notice to the tenant that the tenant’s lease agreement will terminate in seven days if the tenant does not pay the rent that they owe. This section also includes the terms which are not allowed to be included in the rental agreement such as having the tenant pay any of the landlord’s attorney’s fees.
Alabama Tenant’s Right to Disclosure of Agent
In Alabama, following section Sec. 35-9A-202 of the law, a tenant has the lawful right to know the name and business address of the landlord or the landlord’s agent. It is the person who has the authority to manage the property, to collect rent, and to receive and give notices and demands. The landlord is required to disclose this information to the tenant in writing.