Maxwell Law Center
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Landlord And Tenant Law*
; When a person rents property for residential use, or any other reason, he/she is called a renter, lessee, or tenant.
The person who owns the property is called the owner, lessor, or landlord. Frequently, there is also a resident
manager or other person the landlord hires to manage the property.
; An agreement or contract to rent is called a lease. It is strongly encouraged to always have a written lease and you
should be wary of oral promises.
; The laws relating to landlord and tenant issues vary from state to state.
; In Alabama landlord and tenant law can be found in Title 35, Chapter 9 of the Code of Alabama. ; You should always consult with the housing office and legal office before signing any lease. First, see the housing
office. Second, see the legal office. They will conduct a legal review of the lease and answer questions about any
terms you do not understand.
; Tenants must be sure they understand and agree to all of the terms in the lease. If a dispute arises, the terms in the
lease determine who is correct. Some important lease terms include:
; Who must make repairs
; Whether the tenant can sublease the property
; Restrictions on noise
; Whether smoking is allowed
; Whether pets are allowed
; Whether waterbeds are allowed
; And, most importantly, the notice of termination time periods
; Always keep a copy of the lease you sign!
; While the revision to the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides for terminating residential leases if a
servicemember receives orders for a permanent change of station or to deploy for 90 or more days, if the landlord
will agree to a more expansive military clause, it would be in your favor to negotiate for it. ; Under the SCRA for leases with monthly rental payment, the earliest a termination may take effect, unless
otherwise specified, is 30 days after the first date on which the next rental payment is due following proper
delivery of the termination notice. If you and the landlord can agree to a straight 30 days from the date on which
notice is provided, this would be less restrictive than the SCRA.
; The ideal military clause, along with a PCS move and deployment, would allow military tenants to terminate the
lease if any of the following occur:
; assignment to government quarters, or
; release or separation from active duty.
; Many landlords are unwilling to terminate a lease for assignment to government quarters. Thus, you must
carefully consider your future plans before signing a lease without a military clause.
; You could owe rent for the remainder of the lease period if you do not have a military clause and you separate
from the military, or are assigned to government quarters if it is not specifically covered in the lease. ; Ensure that you check the lease notice requirements and timelines.
; Even if your lease has a military clause, it will likely require you to give 30 or 60 days notice of your intent to
terminate the lease. Compliance with this requirement will allow you to calculate a termination date after which
you are no longer obligated to pay rent. If required, and as soon as possible, tenants should provide the landlord
written notice to terminate, along with a copy of their orders.
; Landlords are required to limit the security deposit to one month’s rent, unless an additional fee is required for
pets or other furnishings. Landlords are required to return the funds or account for how the funds were used
within 365 days from the termination of the lease. If they fail to do so, they are liable for double the amount of the
deposit. Tenants should request a receipt for the security deposit. The landlord should provide the tenant with an
itemized list showing any deductions from the security deposit. Tenants must give the landlord a forwarding
address to send the remaining deposit and should inquire as to the time limit for the security deposit to be returned
after vacating the premises.
; Tenants should be provided with a checklist to list any damage to the property before taking possession of the
premises. If a tenant is not provided a checklist, the tenant should list any damage on a piece of paper and turn it
in to the landlord before they move in. This will protect the tenants from paying for damages they did not cause.
Videotaping any existing damage is another method of protection.
; The landlord must ensure the property is fit, habitable, and safe at the time the lease is entered into. The landlord
must repair any known or obvious defects on the property. After this initial responsibility, the lease often controls
who must repair the property. Thus, it is very important to ensure this issue is addressed in the lease and that you
understand this section of the lease. For instance, the lease will often include terms to the effect that minor repairs
are the responsibility of the tenant while major repairs (for example those repairs over a certain dollar limit, like
$50.00/$100.00) are the responsibility of the landlord. Landlords obligated to repair the property under the lease
must perform the repairs within a reasonable time.
; The landlord must give two days notice of intent to enter the premises, except in the case of emergencies. Review
your lease closely to determine what the landlord can and must do. If any of the terms bother you, ask if they can
be changed. If changes are agreed to, ensure that they are incorporated in the lease.
; A lease cannot include provisions requiring or allowing the tenant to waive the requirements related to habitability
or security deposits, provisions requiring the tenant to pay attorney fees or the costs of collecting rents or
exculpatory clauses that limit the liability of landlords.
; Again, the lease controls the responsibilities owed by the tenant to the landlord. The most important responsibility
of the tenant is to pay rent when it is due. You should examine the lease to see if it discusses grace periods, late
fees, or other courses of action by the landlord for late rent. The tenant must also keep the property clean and
dispose of garbage. In addition, the tenant must provide reasonable access to the landlord to enter the dwelling to
inspect the condition of the dwelling or make repairs.
; If the landlord fails to maintain the dwelling in a habitable condition, the tenant may provide written notice of
intent to terminate the rental agreement 14 days after the receipt of notice. If the landlord makes the repairs during
the 14 days, the lease stays in effect. If the landlord fails to make the necessary repairs, the lease terminates and
the landlord must return the security deposit and any prepaid rent.
; In Alabama, a tenant failing to pay rent may be evicted seven days after written notice is provided. Fourteen days
is necessary for any other reason. If the tenant fails to leave within the time limit, the landlord may file with the
court an action for eviction. The tenant has seven days to answer the action
; Members who are landlords should include a provision that expressly outlines procedures in the event the tenant
defaults or fails to abide by any responsibilities under the provisions of the lease.
; A tenant can obtain insurance to cover personal property (furniture, clothes, etc.) and liability coverage. This
insurance may be available from the same company that insures your car. Renter’s insurance is strongly
recommended and costs between $10 and $30 per month.
*The information in this handout is general in nature. The Maxwell Law Center Preventive Law Fact Sheets are not to be used as a substitute for legal advice from an attorney regarding individual situations. (January 2008)