what a landlord cannot do in alabama

What a Landlord Cannot Do in Alabama

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Last Updated on March 18, 2024 by Kelvin Nielsen

Just like tenants, landlords in Alabama have certain rights. Such as, the right to enter rented premises, evict a tenant for violating the lease, and the right to charge a security deposit.

However, there is a limit to what you can do as a landlord. The following things are a no-no when renting out your property.

8 Illegal Things a Landlord Cannot Do in Alabama

1. Evicting your tenant illegally.

You must follow the proper eviction process when evicting a tenant. In the state of Alabama, as do other states, you must have a legal ground to evict a tenant. Legal reasons include nonpayment of rent, violation of a term of the lease, or failure by a tenant to move out after their lease has expired.

Next, you must serve your tenant with an eviction notice. An eviction notice tells a tenant what violation they have committed and what they must do within a certain time period in order to avoid being evicted.

If the tenant disregards the notice and continues living there, you can move to court and file a complaint. The court will then issue a summons and a hearing will be held. The judge will then make a determination based on the evidence presented.

If the ruling is in your favor, the court will grant you a Writ of Execution – a court order returning back the possession of the property back to you. At this point, the tenant will have no option but to leave. If they don’t, the sheriff will return to the property and forcefully evict them.

Illegal eviction methods include locking your tenant out, shutting down their utilities to force them to leave, or removing their belongings. These are examples of ‘self-help’ eviction tactics.

2. Refusing to return your tenant’s security deposit.

The collection and return of security deposits in the state of Alabama is regulated under AL Code § 35-9A-201. You must abide by all relevant rules when requiring tenants to pay a security deposit.

The rules include the following.

  • Charging no more than the equivalent of one month’s rent. If the rental price is, say, $1,000, then you must charge a similar amount as security deposit. Not a dime more.
  • Return it within 60 days after a tenant has moved out of the unit.
  • Only make allowable deductions to the deposit. For example, deducting the costs of fixing damages exceeding normal wear and tear.

There are penalties for wrongfully withholding a tenant’s security deposit. Among other things, you may have to pay the tenant up to double the original amount.

3. Discriminating against your tenant.

As a landlord in Alabama, you must not discriminate against your tenant on the basis of certain protected classes. The classes are: race, color, religion, sex, familial status, nationality, and disability.

The state of Alabama, unlike some other states, is yet to add extra protections for classes not outlined in the federal Fair Housing Act.

You cannot, for instance, ask prospective tenants the following questions when screening them.

  • How many children do you have?
  • Where are you originally from?
  • Are you disabled?
  • Which church do you go to?

4. Harassing your tenant.

All forms of landlord harassment are illegal in the state of Alabama. The goal of harassing a tenant is to force them to move out on their own. The following are actions that can deemed as landlord harassment.

  • Sexually harassing your tenant.
  • Intimidating or threatening your tenant.
  • Filing false eviction charges against your tenant.
  • Entering your tenant’s rented unit without providing an advance notice.
  • Creating unnecessary nuisances that disrupt a tenant’s peace and quiet.
  • Refusing to make timely repairs even after being requested.
  • Shutting down previously available amenities.
  • Locking the tenant out of their rented unit.
  • Removing the tenant’s personal belongings.
  • Not providing your tenant with proper notice.
  • Refusing to accept a rent payment as a way of intimidating your tenant.

5. Retaliating against your tenant for exercising their rights.

This is also something that you cannot do as a landlord in Alabama. You see, tenants  obtain certain rights once they sign the rental agreement. Some of those rights include, the right to:

  • Form or join a tenants’ union to advocate for their rights.
  • Report you to a relevant government agency for failing in your responsibilities.
  • Withholding rent until you fix a habitability problem.
  • Repairing a maintenance issue and then deducting the costs from rent payments.

You may not then retaliate against your tenant by taking any of the following illegal actions.

  • Raising the rent amount.
  • Refusing to acknowledge a rent payment.
  • Terminating the lease agreement.
  • Starting eviction proceedings against the tenant.

While you may not like certain actions your tenant may make, seeking revenge is a definite no-no.

6. Banning a service animal.

Disability is a protected class under the Fair Housing Act. As such, you cannot reject a tenant’s application merely on the basis of them having a service animal. Even with a “no pets” rule, you must still accommodate tenants with service animals.

In addition to that, you may also need to make certain reasonable accommodations to the unit as per the tenant’s request. Examples include the following.

  • Adding a grab bar to the bathroom.
  • Allowing the tenant to transfer to the ground-floor unit.
  • Assigning the tenant an accessible parking space.
  • Adjusting their rent payment schedule to accommodate when they receive income assistance.

7. Refusing to make requested repairs.

Your tenants have a right to live in a habitable rental unit. Alabama landlords’ obligations to provide a habitable rental property are primarily governed by AL Code § 35-9A-204. Some of your responsibilities include the following.

  • Providing working plumbing, electrical, and lighting systems.
  • Providing a working heating, ventilating and cooling system.
  • Providing hot and cold running water.
  • Providing adequate trash receptacles.
  • Providing working smoke and carbon monoxide detection devices.

If you fail to do such responsibilities, your tenant may have several legal options to pursue. Including, the right to sue you for failing to keep the unit in a habitable condition, and to report you to public officials for action. Alabama tenants, unlike some other states, cannot withhold rent or exercise their right to repair and deduct, though.

8. Failing to make certain disclosures known to the tenant prior to moving in.

You must make certain disclosures to your tenant prior to allowing them to move into your rental property. Alabama requires that landlords disclose to their tenants about:

  • Presence of lead-based paint. This is specially meant for landlords renting out units built prior to 1978. You must let your tenant know about the concentrations of lead based used.
  • Name and addresses of all the authorized parties tasked with managing the property.

Disclosure: The content herein isn’t a substitute for advice from a professional attorney. It’s only meant to serve educational purposes. If you have a specific question, kindly seek expert attorney services.

Sources: https://www.alabamalegalhelp.org/, Nolo.com, https://www.alabamalegalhelp.org/, https://montgomery.alacourt.gov/