Alabama Landlord-Tenant Attorneys
Whether you own one real estate investment property or several, or you are a residential or commercial property management company, it is essential that you understand the laws governing the landlord-tenant relationship. Alabama has specific laws that govern landlords, tenants, and the agreements they make between each other. There are numerous legal issues that can arise during this relationship, and when a legal matter comes up, you need an experienced attorney in your corner to help ensure that your rights and interests are fully protected.
At the law offices of Davis, Bingham, Hudson & Buckner, P.C., we have over 40 years of experience providing skilled guidance and strong legal representation for landlord-tenant issues and related matters. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of residential and commercial real estate law, and we work closely with clients, taking the time to thoroughly understand their unique issues and circumstances and putting our extensive experience to work to develop the most practical and effective legal solution.
Alabama Residential Landlord-Tenant Laws
The Alabama Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act of 2007 governs the relationship between residential landlords and tenants in the state. Under the law, tenants have certain protections, such as the right to livable conditions, privacy, reasonable lease conditions, and nondiscriminatory treatment. Landlords also receive protections against tenants who fail to pay rent and repeatedly violate other provisions of the lease agreement. We provide guidance on residential lease agreements, what should be included in the lease, disclosure requirements, security deposit guidelines, landlord-tenant disputes, evictions, and any other legal matters related to the residential landlord-tenant relationship in Alabama.
Commercial Leases in Alabama
Commercial leases are far more complicated than those that are done between a landlord and a residential tenant. A commercial lease contains numerous potential pitfalls, and those who enter into this type of agreement should, at the very least, have the agreement reviewed by a seasoned attorney who is looking out for their best interests. Ideally, however, it is best to have your lawyer draft the agreement, or at least have significant input into its contents.
There are several areas of a commercial lease that parties involved should pay close attention to. Some of the most important include:
Naturally, one of the primary concerns that all parties to a commercial lease will have is the amount of rent that will be paid. However, you need to look not only at the rent payment, but what is included in that payment, when and under what conditions rent can be increased, and other important details. For example, landlords and tenants should know whether or not the rent price includes any utilities, insurance, property taxes, maintenance, and other costs. Another area that should be covered is the security deposit. Although there are specific laws that govern what a security deposit can be used for, this should also be spelled out in the lease.
Term of the Lease
The term, or the length of time in which the lease is in effect, is usually at least 12 months on a commercial lease, but can often be for several years. In general, if a tenant is willing to sign a longer term lease, landlords usually have more flexibility with the rental payment. However, tenants must be careful not to overcommit to a term that is longer than they are comfortable with just to save a few dollars. Committing to stay in one place for an extended period of time limits some of the business’ flexibility. These and other factors should be taken into consideration when negotiating the term of the lease.
Use of Space
It is important to clearly define exactly what space is being included in the lease, and what the tenant is allowed to use it for. Issues that should be covered include the use of common areas such as entrances, hallways, stairs, elevators, and restrooms. The lease should also define what commercial activities are allowed to take place within the rented space. For example, if the tenant is a pizza shop but they also want to sell T-shirts, hats, and other apparel with their logo on them, that should be clearly stated in the lease. One common request some tenants might make is to have an “exclusive use” clause put in the agreement. Using the pizza shop is an example again, they might request that no other pizza shops can rent space in the same commercial location.
Assignment and Subletting
Does the landlord want to allow the tenant to lease part or all of the space to a third party in the future? Or do they want to prohibit assignment and subletting? Tenants will often want this option, because it provides more flexibility to adapt to market conditions. Landlords are usually more open to allowing this provision so long as they are able to approve any proposed transfer of lease in advance, and as long as the original lessee remains liable for any unpaid rent or damage done by a new tenant.
Improvements, Modifications and Fixtures
Tenants often need to make some upgrades and modifications to their unit in order to make it suitable for their business operation. The commercial lease should address any modifications, upgrades, fixtures, etc. that the tenant may need. It should also spell out who owns these improvements once the lease expires. Usually, the landlord retains ownership of permanent modifications such as new carpeting, walls, tiled floor, etc. However, some movable fixtures (such as signage, seating, and cabinets) may belong to the tenant.
This is a very important one. Pay very close attention to how disputes will be handled according to the lease. Litigation is costly for everyone involved, so it is generally in the best interests of all parties to use some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in the event of a legal conflict. The two most popular alternatives are mediation and arbitration. Speak with your attorney about which form of dispute resolution should be in the lease.
Commercial spaces must be in compliance with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations. It is generally the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that the property is legally compliant, but who is responsible should also be spelled out in the lease agreement.
Commercial Evictions in Alabama
To evict a commercial tenant, landlords must follow proper procedure. The eviction process will vary depending on the specific terms and conditions of the lease agreement, but here are some general guidelines:
- Provide written notice to the tenant explaining the reason for the eviction;
- Notice is issued for one of two reasons: seven days for unpaid rent, or 14 days for breach of lease (other than unpaid rent);
- After proper notice of eviction is issued, file paperwork for eviction with your local court;
- If the tenant does not leave voluntarily, the landlord may request that the eviction be carried out with the assistance of the sheriff.
Call our Experienced Alabama Real Estate Lawyers Today
Alabama landlord-tenant laws are complicated, and if you are involved in real estate, you need strong legal counsel by your side to help you navigate the complexities of these issues, and to help ensure that you avoid any pitfalls that can cost you both legally and financially. At Davis, Bingham, Hudson & Buckner, P.C., we are ready to assist you with your landlord-tenant legal matters. For a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, call our office today at 334-821-1908, or contact us by filling out our online contact form. You may also stop into our Auburn office for assistance.