The Eviction Process in Alabama: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers

An overview of Alabama eviction rules, forms, and procedures.

A landlord who is attempting to evict a tenant in Alabama must carefully follow all state rules and procedures governing the eviction process; otherwise, the eviction might not be valid. This article will explain the basics of Alabama eviction law.

Notice for Termination With Cause

Generally, the landlord's first step in the eviction process is to terminate the lease or rental agreement. This can only be done when the landlord has legal cause to evict the tenant. Alabama state law has defined legal cause as failure to pay rent, violation of the lease or rental agreement (including lying in the application process), and engagement in certain illegal activity. To terminate the lease, the landlord must first give the tenant notice. In Alabama, the landlord is required to give a seven-day notice in all of these situations. However, the tenant's options will vary depending on the reason they are receiving the notice.

  • Seven-day notice to pay rent: If the tenant fails to pay rent when it is due, the landlord can give the tenant a seven-day notice to pay rent. The notice must inform the tenant that rent must be paid or the tenant must move out within seven days, or the landlord will terminate the lease or rental agreement and file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. If the tenant pays the rent, then the landlord must not proceed with the eviction. (Ala. Code § 35-9A-421(b).) Eviction Notices for Nonpayment of Rent in Alabama has more information on this topic.
  • Seven-day notice to remedy: If the tenant violates the lease or rental agreement, the landlord can give the tenant a seven-day notice to remedy. This notice must inform the tenant that the tenant has seven days to remedy the violation or move out. If the tenant does neither, the landlord will file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. If the tenant remedies the violation, then the landlord cannot proceed with the eviction. ( Ala. Code § 35-9A-421(a).)
  • Seven-day unconditional quit notice: In some cases, the landlord does not need to give the tenant an opportunity to fix a violation or bad behavior. In those cases, the landlord can give the tenant a seven-day notice informing the tenant that because of the tenant's behavior, the landlord is terminating the lease, and the tenant has seven days to move out. If the tenant does not move out, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. This type of notice can be given to the tenant in the following situations:
    • the tenant intentionally misrepresented facts in the rental agreement or application
    • the tenant possessed or used illegal drugs on the premises of the rental unit
    • the tenant discharged a firearm on the premises of the rental unit (with some exceptions, such as self-defense), or
    • the tenant criminally assaulted another tenant or guest on the premises of the rental unit (with some exceptions, such as self-defense)

(Ala. Code § 35-9A-421.)

Notice for Termination Without Cause

When a landlord does not have legal cause to evict a tenant, the landlord must wait until the lease or rental agreement has expired before expecting the tenant to move. The landlord might still need to give the tenant written notice to move in some cases.

Month-to-Month Tenancy

When the landlord wishes to end a month-to-month tenancy but does not have legal cause to evict the tenant, then the landlord can give the tenant a 30-day written notice to vacate. This notice must inform the tenant that the tenancy will expire in 30 days and the tenant must move out of the rental unit by then. (Ala. Code § 35-9A-441.)

Fixed-Term Lease

When the landlord wants to end a fixed-term lease but does not have legal cause to evict the tenant, the landlord must wait until the lease has expired before expecting the tenant to move. Unless the terms of the lease specifically require it, the landlord is not required to give the tenant written notice to move before the end of the lease. When the lease has expired, the landlord can expect the tenant to move.

Tenant Eviction Defenses

Even when a landlord has a valid legal cause to evict a tenant, the tenant might still decide to fight the eviction. The tenant could also have a valid legal defense to the eviction, such as the landlord evicting the tenant in retaliation or the landlord discriminating against the tenant. If the tenant decides to fight the eviction, this could increase the costs of the lawsuit and give the tenant more time to remain in the rental unit.

Removal of the Tenant

The only way a landlord can remove a tenant from a rental unit is by winning an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. Even then, the landlord must not actually evict the tenant. That can only be done by a law enforcement officer with a court order. It is illegal for the landlord to force the tenant to move out of the rental unit, and the tenant can sue the landlord for an illegal eviction.

If the tenant leaves personal property behind in the rental unit after the tenant has been evicted, the landlord must store the personal property for up to 14 days. If the tenant does not claim the property during this time, then the landlord can dispose of the personal property, with no further liability to the tenant. (Ala. Code § 35-9A-423(d).) Handling a Tenant's Abandoned Property in Alabama has more information for the landlord.

Rationale for the Rules

Landlords must carefully follow all the rules and procedures required by Alabama law when evicting a tenant; otherwise, the eviction might not be valid. Although these rules and procedures can seem burdensome to the landlord, they are there for a reason. Evictions often occur very quickly, and the end result is serious: the tenant has lost a place to live. The rules help ensure the eviction is justified and that the tenant has enough time to find a new home.

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