tenants cant pay rent during covid-19

Legal Options for Alabama Landlords When Tenants Can’t Pay Rent During COVID-19

With the expiration of the federal CARES Act eviction moratorium, it is no longer applicable to tenants, which means that the landlord must provide the tenant an eviction notice of:

  • A minimum of 30 days
  • The eviction notice must be dated post-July 25th, 2020
  • The landlord must let the tenant know about the outstanding rent and offer them an opportunity to pay it

A landlord cannot charge late fees for between March 27th, 2020, and July 25th, 2020. If, after that time, the rent remains unpaid, an Alabama landlord can file an Unlawful Detainer against the defaulting tenant in court.

Legal Channels to Eviction: Unlawful Detainer versus Failure to Vacate

Alabama offers landlords two provisions for evicting tenants, namely, unlawful detainer or failure to vacate. The landlord can pursue any one of these two routes. In unlawful detainer proceedings (which fall in the category of civil eviction), the landlord will need to provide the tenant with a written notice to vacate the premises. After the notice period’s expiration, if the tenant has still not left the property, the landlord can file a lawsuit against the tenant.

The proceedings for failure to vacate (criminal proceedings) necessitate that the landlord provides the tenant with ten days of written notice to vacate the property. Such eviction can happen only in case the tenant defaults on rent. If the tenant fails to evict the property after the ten-day warning period, the landlord may seek help from the courts. The tenant might be charged with a misdemeanor and may need to pay up to $25 per day for the time they remain on the premises, besides rent owed.

On the other hand, the eviction is not over after the expiration of the notice period in the case of an unlawful detainer. In fact, the process begins at this point. If the tenant does not vacate the premises on their own upon notice period expiry, the landlord must then undertake the below to regain rights to their property:

Serve a 7, 14, or 30-Day Notice

The eviction process starts with a landlord submitting written notice in person or through a process server detailing the reasons for the eviction. In cases of non-payment of rent, a seven-day notice is acceptable. For breaking lease terms, a 14-day notice is necessary. A 30-day notice is required for month-to-month lease agreements.

The notice period offers tenants a chance to “cure” the indiscretion (clear the rent amount or resolve the issue). If rent arrears are the problem, and the tenant pays the outstanding amount or a lesser amount mutually agreed upon by the landlord and tenant, the notice becomes void.

File and Serve a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer

If the notice period elapses without the tenant trying to cure the problem, the landlord is entitled to file and serve a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer. After this notice has been served, the tenant has up to 14 days to respond for rent non-payment and seven days for all other matters. If the tenant fails to respond, the judge will decide in the landlord’s favor.

A Potential Hearing

If a tenant objects or responds to the notice, a hearing will take place before a judge, in which both parties will be given a chance to explain their side of the issue. However, it is ultimately incumbent on the landlord to show that the notice was served lawfully, and the tenant is in violation of their duty.

A Decision will be Made

The tenant will be given seven days to appeal a judgment that is in favor of the landlord. After the seven-day appeal period lapses, the landlord can acquire a Writ of Possession. Subsequently, a sheriff may forcibly evict the tenant.

Tenant May Still Appeal the Decision

If the tenant chooses to appeal the decision, they may remain on the premises but must pay rent during this process.

Disposing of Possessions

In case the tenant loses the appeal and leaves possessions within the premises, the law requires landlords to wait for 14 days before disposing of the tenant’s belongings.

Legal Assistance by Experienced Alabama Real Estate Attorneys

There exists a relatively drawn-out eviction process in Alabama. Landlords may have to spend weeks or months as well as significant resources to get a tenant evicted from their property. Therefore, working out a solution with the tenant is the most efficient route to eviction.

Upon realizing that the landlord does not want them on the property, tenants are often willing to leave. Sadly, the landlord may be left with no choice but to pursue legal action if a tenant is unwilling to vacate the premises or arrive at an agreement.

If you are a landlord in Alabama, it is best to have a seasoned lawyer on retainer. The experienced attorneys at Davis, Bingham, Hudson, Bucker, P.C., can educate you on your rights before you rent out your property, rather than after it is rented when your rights become constrained. Call (334) 821-6335 today to speak to an attorney.

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