When a tenant fails to pay rent, a landlord must take specific steps under Alabama landlord-tenant law to force the tenant to either pay the rent due or move out of the rental property. Alabama law prohibits “self-help” eviction remedies; this means the landlord cannot take personal action to remove the tenant from the rental property, such as entering the home and changing the locks, without obtaining a court order. The first step a landlord must take to evict a tenant who has not paid rent is to serve the tenant with written notice to terminate the lease under Alabama state law. (ALA Code § 35-9A-421).
This article explains the basics of evicting a tenant in Alabama for nonpayment of rent. It discusses the notice to terminate the lease that gives tenants the right to pay the rent rather than face an eviction lawsuit. Landlords who do not want to give a tenant with a month-to-month rental agreement the option of paying the rent must serve the tenant a notice to terminate the tenancy, which allows the tenant 30 days to move.
Alabama Notice to Terminate the Lease for Nonpayment of Rent
If the tenant does not pay rent on the day rent is due according to the lease or rental agreement, the landlord must serve the tenant with a notice to terminate the lease. This notice states that the tenant must either pay the rent due or move out of the rental property within seven days of the notice.
What Is Included in the Notice to Terminate the Lease?
The landlord must include the following information when drafting a notice to terminate the lease for nonpayment of rent:
- the name and address of the tenant
- the landlord’s name
- the amount of rent and any late fees presently owed by the tenant to the landlord,
- indication that if the rent due is not paid within seven days of the notice the tenant may be evicted, and
- the landlord’s signature.
Here is sample language for a notice to terminate the lease agreement for nonpayment of rent:
“To (here insert the name of tenant(s)):
You are hereby notified that in consequence of your failure to pay the rent due for the premises now occupied by you, being (here insert the address of the rental property), I, (here insert landlord’s name) have elected to terminate your lease, and you are hereby notified to pay the rent due of (here insert total rent due) or quit and deliver up possession of the rental property to me within seven days of this date. Dated this _____ day of ________.”
To be signed by the landlord.
How to Serve the Tenant with the Notice to Terminate the Lease
Once the notice is drafted and signed by the landlord, the landlord may serve the notice on the tenant by delivering it to the tenant using one of the following methods:
- personal delivery to the tenant
- personal delivery to the tenant’s rental property and giving the notice to any adult there, or
- posting the notice on the premises.
The landlord should keep a copy of the notice and make a record of to whom and the date of when the landlord served the notice. This information will be needed if the tenant fails to comply with the notice and the landlord is then forced to take further action by filing an eviction action in court.
Tenant Options When Served with a Notice of Termination for Nonpayment of Rent
The tenant’s response to a notice of termination may have different consequences:
- If the tenant pays the rent within the seven-day time period, then the landlord cannot proceed with the eviction.
- If the tenant does not pay the rent, but moves out within seven days, the landlord may use the tenant’s security deposit (if any) to cover the unpaid rent after following certain steps required under Alabama law. If the security deposit does not cover all the rent due and owing, including late charges, if provided for in the lease or rental agreement, then the landlord can sue the tenant in court for the rent still owed. See Nolo’s article Alabama Landlord's Guide to Security Deposit Disputes in Small Claims Court for details.
- If the tenant does not pay the full rent within the seven-day time period and does not move out of the property, then the landlord can file a complaint with the circuit court to gain possession of the property.
Resources on Evictions for Nonpayment of Rent in Alabama
A useful resource for landlords and tenants is Alabama Legal Help, which provides self-help legal information. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website publishes many helpful links to Alabama landlord-tenant resources.
For more articles on landlord-tenant laws in Alabama, see the Alabama charts in the State Landlord-Tenant Laws section of the Nolo site. For more on eviction-related articles, see the Evicting a Tenant or Ending a Lease section of the Nolo site.
If you want a lawyer’s advice on evicting a evicting a tenant, see the list of Alabama landlord-tenant lawyers in Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.