The Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act, Act 2006-316 (the “Act”) was signed into law by Governor Bob Riley (R) on April 6, 2006 and became applicable to leases entered into, renewed, or modified as of January 1, 2007. The Act relates only to residential leases and clearly defines the rights of landlords and tenants, tightens up the rules for renters, and curbs certain landlord abuses.
Alabama was one of only two states that did not have a set of statutes addressing the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. Due to the importance of the issue, the Alabama Legislature asked the Alabama Law Institute (“ALI”) to draft a uniform landlord-tenant act. The Act adopted by the Alabama Legislature in March, 2006 is primarily based on the ALI’s uniform act. Statutory regulation of the landlord-tenant relationship has been long overdue.
A few of the Act’s key provisions are as follows
- Rental property must be habitable, with working heat, electricity and water.
- A tenant may break a lease after 14 days notice when a landlord does not correct major health and safety problems.
- State-wide standard eviction procedures, including priority for eviction cases in district court.
- Security deposits must be returned within 35 days after a lease ends. An explanation must be provided for any portion of deposit not returned because of damages.
- Except in cases of emergency, two days notice must be given before entering a rental property.
- Beginning January 1, 2008, leases may not contain provisions that (1) waive rights and remedies under the Act, (2) confess judgment relating to the rental agreement, (3) agree to pay landlord’s attorney fees or collection costs, or (4) agree to any limitation of liability of the landlord or agree to indemnify the landlord in connection with such liability.
Like any piece of legislation, the Act is far from perfect. However, our residential property owner clients generally feel that the Act is a good thing and long overdue. We have been urging each of these clients to familiarize themselves with the law and review their leases for compliance with Act—especially considering that, beginning January 1, 2008, a landlord can be held liable for one month’s rent and attorney’s fees for having certain provisions in his lease.
A more thorough list of the Act’s key provisions is located at Highlights of Alabama’s New Landlord-Tenant Law. Other articles regarding the Act can be found at New Landlord-Tenant Act Makes It Easier for Legal Services and VLP Lawyers to Help Low-Income Tenants and Alabama Landlord, Tenant Rights Defined.
Russell M. Cunningham, IV, Cunningham Firm, LLC