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Alabama Property Management Laws

Understanding property management law is crucial for landlords and property managers. Unfortunately, in Alabama, as well as the rest of the country, it can be complex and often confusing. Property management in Alabama mostly falls under real estate law, and this can be overwhelming for companies and individuals who manage properties in more than one state, as the laws vary, sometimes drastically, from state to state.

The guide that follows has been created to provide a broad overview of Alabama's property management laws. It also contains detailed information about where official laws can be read and how to find other helpful resources that can offer more insight into the state's property management laws. Use the information that follows to quickly and easily obtain information about what you can and cannot do as a property manager or landlord in the state of Alabama, as well as what's required of you when offering properties for rent and choosing tenants.

Key Points

  • 1 Most property managers in the state of Alabama are required to hold a real estate broker licenses.
  • 2 Property owners and investors who wish to find renters for their property should consider hiring professional property management to ensure all state regulations are followed.
  • 3 Property management companies allow owners and investors to reap the benefits of renting out their property without putting in much work.
  • 4 Property investors and owners should ensure that a binding contract is signed with their property management company. The contract needs to abide by all state laws and explicitly outline the services that are provided, as well as what the fee is, how it should be paid and what situations may result in additional fees.

Note: This guide is intended to be used as an educational resource. The contents within do not constitute legal advice. To obtain information regarding property management laws in your state, consult a local attorney. This guide is based only on property management laws at the state level. Local county and city laws may exist that are not discussed in this guide. Consult a local attorney to obtain information that pertains to your specific location and situation.

Code Description
34-27-1 Licensing Laws
35-9-1 Rental Application Laws
35-9A-201 Security Deposit Laws
35-9A-421 Lease and Termination Laws
35-9A-161 Rent and Late Fee Laws
35-9A-202 Disclosure Laws
35-9A-203 Landlord Responsibility Laws
35-9A-204 Property Maintenance and Repair Laws

Property Management Licensing Laws

One of the most important laws property managers in Alabama need to be aware of is the state’s real estate licensing law. While the state previously required all on-site managers to obtain a real estate licenses, this rule has recently been removed from the state’s laws (34-27-2b); however, any licensed real estate company that manages apartment complexes or other large properties must comply with licensing laws.

Who can obtain a real estate license in Alabama?

There are several rules (34-27-32) that regulate who is eligible to receive a real estate license in the state and who can act as a property manager and lease/rent property on behalf of its owner. These rules include:

  1. The applicant must be at least 19 years old
  2. The applicant must be a legal U.S. citizen or an alien with permanent resident status. Alternatively, nonresidents may apply if they agree to sign an affidavit.
  3. The licensee must prove to be a trustworthy, competent property manager.
  4. The person may not have had a real estate license revoked or rejected in any other state for two years prior.

Rental Application Laws

Are landlords/property managers permitted to collect application fees from potential tenants?

Generally, yes. While laws regarding fees in Alabama’s Landlord-Tenant Act were repealed by Act 2006-316 in 2007 (35-9-88), there may be municipal, county or federal laws that apply.

What is the law when it comes to requesting criminal records or credit checks from prospective tenants?

There aren’t any state laws in Alabama restricting landlords or property managers from obtaining criminal background checks during the tenant screening process. Property managers are subject to the Alabama Fair Credit Code (5-19-1), which governs the way that consumer credit is handled. However, there are no specific state laws that pertain to property managers and their rights to consumer credit reports. There may be municipal, county or federal laws that apply to the process of obtaining the criminal and credit history of potential tenants.

Do discrimination laws apply to tenant screening?

The Alabama Fair Housing Law (24-8-4) states that it’s considered unlawful to refuse to negotiate with or deny property to any person on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status or nationality.

Security Deposit Laws

Are additional move-in fees allowed?

Move-in fees may not be requested, and landlords are not permitted to request money in excess of the security deposit (35-9A-201-a). The only exception to this is if the tenant owns a pet or there are other increased liability risks associated with renting to the tenant.

Is there a limit on the security deposit amount that can be charged?

The amount of a security deposit should not exceed the total dollar amount of a single month’s rent unless an additional deposit is required for pets or other increased liability risks (35-9A-201-a).

Does the landlord have to hold the security deposit in a specific way during occupancy?

While there are no state laws in Alabama stating how security funds should be stored, there may be municipal, county or federal laws that apply.

How long does the landlord have to return the security deposit after a move out?

Landlords must return security funds within 60 days of the tenant terminating the lease and returning possession unless funds are being held due to property damage or failure to pay rent (35-9A-201).

What are the reasons a landlord can withhold part or all of the security deposit?

Landlords may withhold all or a portion of a tenant’s security funds once the property has been vacated if they deem it necessary to do so as a result of damages done to the property (35-9A-301) or nonpayment of rent. In the event a landlord holds security funds, they must provide the tenant with an itemized list detailing the reasons funds were withheld and the exact amounts (35-9A-201-b).

What is the penalty if the landlord doesn’t return the security deposit?

If a landlord fails to return funds within 60 days of receiving possession of the property, they will be required to pay the tenant double the amount of the original deposit (35-9A-201-f).

Are there any exceptions in which the tenant may forfeit the deposit?

Upon termination of the lease, the tenant is required to leave a valid forwarding address, in writing, with the landlord (35-9A-201-d). The landlord must forward a check for the security funds, or an itemized list of withheld security funds, to this address. In the event the tenant does not deposit returned security funds within 90 days, the landlord may legally cancel the check and retain funds indefinitely.

Laws About Leases and Lease Termination

What types of lease terms are allowed?

Alabama law states that a landlord-tenant lease with a fixed term of one year or longer is only valid and effective for one year (35-9A-162). If no definite term is agreed upon by both the landlord and the tenant, then the rent will automatically be considered a week-to-week or month-to-month agreement, depending on the frequency at which rent is paid to the landlord.

What happens if a tenant violates a lease?

In the event that a tenant violates their agreement with a landlord, whether by failing to pay rent or by other means, the landlord has the legal right to deliver a notice to terminate the lease (35-9A-421a). Upon receipt, the tenant shall have a minimum of seven days to vacate the premises; however, the landlord may provide additional time if they wish. Some common lease violations include intentionally causing damage to the property or engaging in illegal activity on it.

How much notice is required for a month-to-month lease termination?

In Alabama, 10 days written notice is required to terminate a month-to-month lease (35-9-5).

When can a tenant terminate a term lease without penalty?

In the event that a landlord doesn’t comply with the terms outlined in the lease, a tenant can provide written notice of termination (35-9A-401). The tenant must provide a minimum of 14 days’ notice, and along with the written notice, they must provide a detailed written account of the landlord’s breach.

How much notice do service members have to supply before terminating the lease?

While there are no state laws that govern lease termination for active military service members, federal law permits members of the military to break a residential lease if they meet certain conditions:

  • They must submit written notice along with a letter from their commanding officer or a copy of their military orders.
  • They must be deployed a minimum of 50 miles away from the residence.
  • They must be deployed for a minimum of 90 days.

If the tenant’s lease is fixed-term or month-to-month, the lease will terminate 30 days after the next payment is due.

Are there special lease termination rules for victims of domestic violence?

There are no laws in Alabama that provide special rights to victims of domestic abuse when it comes to terminating a lease. However, there may be municipal, county or federal laws that apply.

How much notice does a landlord have to give before making changes to the property that result in termination of the lease?

If the lease is month-to-month, the landlord must provide 30 days’ notice (35-9A-461). If the lease is fixed-term, the landlord must wait until the end of the lease term.

Laws About Rent and Late Fees

When can a landlord increase rent?

Although the law doesn’t stipulate the notice required to increase rent or maximum increase amounts, landlords must be cautious to avoid rent increases that could be seen as discriminatory to avoid violating the Alabama Fair Housing Act (24-8-4).

Is there a maximum amount of rent that a landlord can charge tenants?

State law doesn’t govern the total dollar amount a landlord can charge to rent out a property to a tenant; however, there may be municipal, county or federal laws that apply.

Is there a state-mandated grace period that landlords must give tenants before charging a late fee?

There are no state laws regarding imposing late fees on tenants for late rent payment; however, all fees charged must be predetermined by the rental agreement. There may also be municipal, county or federal laws that apply.

Is there a limit on how much of a late fee the landlord can charge tenants?

There is no law governing the amount a landlord is allowed to charge a tenant for late payments; however, to be legally enforced, the fee amount must be stipulated in the rental agreement.

Legally Required Disclosures

What types of disclosures are landlords required to supply regarding ownership of the property?

Landlords are required to provide tenants with written notice (35-9A-202-a) in the event property management or ownership changes occur. The notice must be provided in advance and include details, such as the person authorized to manage the property as well as any changes in contact information.

Can the owner or landlord designate an agent to serve and receive disclosures on their behalf?

Owners may assign a designated agent to serve notices on their behalf (35-9A-202-2).

What disclosures related to mold are landlords required to supply?

While there is no specific law pertaining to mold on the premises, the Alabama Landlord-Tenant Act states that landlords are required to comply with all requirements of building and housing codes that affect health and safety (35-9A-204-1). As such, landlords are required to promptly and adequately remove all mold in the residence. Additionally, municipal, county or federal laws may apply.

What disclosures related to lead paint are landlords required to supply?

Alabama doesn’t have any state property management laws pertaining to lead paint. Municipal, county or federal laws may apply.

Laws About Landlord Responsibilities

How much notice does the landlord have to supply before entry?

Landlords in Alabama must provide at least two days’ notice (35-9A-303) if they intend to enter the tenant’s residence. This notice must be posted on the primary entry of the home. Exceptions are made in the following circumstances:

  • The landlord is granted entry pursuant to a court order
  • There is an emergency such as a fire, flood or gas leak
  • The tenant has requested repairs or maintenance
  • The landlord has reasonable cause to believe the tenant has abandoned the property

When can the tenant refuse to allow the landlord entry?

Entry can be denied (35-9A-303) by the tenant if the tenant fails to give a minimum of two days’ notice. They can also refuse if the landlord tries to enter outside of regular business hours or tries to enter for an unlawful reason.

What steps must the landlord take to keep the property habitable?

There is a range of laws in Alabama that are in place to ensure landlords maintain safe, habitable properties for their tenants (35-9A-204).

  • All units must comply with building and housing codes
  • All common areas should be clean and safe
  • All systems in the residences must be in safe, working condition
  • Repairs must be performed in a timely manner

What amenities must the landlord supply and maintain?

Landlords are required to ensure garbage receptacles (35-9A-204-5) are located on the property for trash disposal and that regular removal is scheduled.

What utilities must the landlord supply and maintain?

Landlords are required to ensure tenants have access to a clean supply of running water, including hot water, at all times. Reasonable heat is required in most situations, as well (35-9A-204-6).

Does the landlord have to supply a certificate of inspection to the tenant?

There are no laws governing move-in inspections in Alabama. There may be municipal, county or federal laws that apply.

Is the landlord required to supply locks and keys?

Alabama’s Landlord-Tenant Act does not specify if the landlord is required to provide locks and keys to the tenant. There may be municipal, county or federal laws that apply.

Are retaliatory actions prohibited in Alabama?

Retaliatory acts by a landlord are strictly against the Alabama Fair Housing Law (24-8-4) and are considered discriminatory. This includes acts such as raising the rent or refusing repairs. In Alabama, the following situations are seen as reasons for landlord retaliation (35-9A-501):

  • The tenant has not paid rent
  • The tenant has filed a complaint against the landlord
  • The tenant is a member of a tenant union

How long does a landlord have to retain a tenant’s property if they abandon it on the property?

Property that’s abandoned at the end of a lease or during the lease term must be retained by the landlord for 14 days (35-9A-423). Landlords must provide written notice to the tenant to collect their belongings. Once 14 days has passed, the landlord may dispose of the tenant’s belongings as they see fit.

Property Maintenance and Repair Laws

What type of maintenance is the landlord responsible for?

Landlords are responsible for keeping the property, inside and out, safe and in good repair (35-9A-204). This includes, but may not be limited to, maintaining clean common areas and ensuring electrical, plumbing, HVAC, appliances and elevators are in working condition.

How long does the landlord have to make repairs once a maintenance request is submitted by the tenant?

Alabama state law does not specify the length of time landlords have to make repairs. Municipal, county or federal laws may apply.

What type of maintenance is the tenant responsible for?

Tenants are required to maintain their living space by ensuring it’s in a clean, habitable condition (35-9A-301). That means removing all waste in a safe manner, using electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems responsibly and refraining from causing intentional damage or disturbances on the property. It’s also the tenant’s responsibility to report any damages or malfunctions to the landlord promptly.

When does a landlord have to return and/or lower rent due to diminished rental value?

There are no state laws regarding rental rates on properties with diminished value. Municipal, county or federal laws may apply.

When can a tenant request an official inspection to determine substandard or dangerous living conditions?

There are no laws in Alabama regarding official inspections when substandard living conditions occur. However, tenants are permitted to submit written notice and break their lease if the landlord isn’t complying with their part of the agreed-upon terms (35-9A-401). Municipal, county or federal laws may also apply.

Under what circumstances can a tenant make a repair and deduct the cost from the rent paid to the landlord?

Tenants are not allowed to withhold rent in Alabama (35-9A-164).

Additional Rental Law Resources for the State of Alabama

Name Phone Number Description
Tenant Rights in Alabama Handbook N/A A guide to help tenants and property managers understand the Landlord-Tenant Act in Alabama.
Housing Discrimination Hotline (800) 669-9777 Helps tenants understand fair housing rights and accepts complaints against landlords and property management companies.
Alabama Housing Finance Authority (334) 244-9200 Provides tenants with access to housing resources across the state and educates renters about fair housing, equal opportunities and property management law. This organization also helps families and individuals access low-cost housing and supportive housing programs.

These additional resources can help to educate tenants, landlords and property managers on the Landlord-Tenant Act in Alabama or provide assistance with questions and concerns.

Note: This guide is intended to be used as an educational resource. The contents within it do not constitute legal advice. To obtain information regarding property management laws in your state, consult a local attorney. This guide is based only on property management laws at the state level. Local county and city laws may exist that are not discussed in this guide. Consult a local attorney to obtain information that pertains to your specific location and situation.