Alabama Eviction Laws: 2024 Step by Step Process & Costs

Overview of Eviction Process in Alabama

In Alabama, landlords must follow certain legal procedures to remove tenants from a rental property. These procedures are designed to give tenants sufficient notice and an opportunity to respond before being evicted.

Before starting the eviction process, Alabama landlords must properly notify tenants in writing of any lease violations or reasons for eviction. Tenants generally have a period of days specified in the notice to either comply or vacate the property. 

If the tenant fails to comply after proper notice is given, the landlord can file an eviction complaint in court. The court will schedule a hearing where both parties can present evidence. If the judge rules in the landlord's favor, they will issue a writ of possession giving the tenant a certain number of days to move out. 

After receiving a writ of possession, if the tenant still refuses to leave, the landlord can enlist the sheriff's office to forcibly remove the tenant and their belongings. The landlord must safely store the tenant's possessions for a period of time after eviction.

Throughout the eviction process, Alabama tenants have certain legal defenses they can raise if they believe the landlord did not follow proper procedures or the eviction is invalid for other reasons. Tenants also have the right to ask the court for additional time to find new housing before being removed.

Eviction Timeline and Process in Alabama

In Alabama, a landlord can start the eviction process for several reasons, including:

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Breach of the lease agreement
  • Damage to the property 
  • Criminal activity
  • Staying after the lease expires

Serving Notice to Comply 

The first step is for the landlord to give the tenant a "notice to comply." This gives the tenant 7 days to fix the issue, such as paying rent or stopping the lease violation. 

If the tenant doesn't comply within 7 days, the landlord can proceed with filing the eviction complaint.

Filing the Eviction Complaint

To start the formal eviction process, the landlord files a complaint with the court and pays a filing fee. This is called an "Unlawful Detainer" action in Alabama.

The complaint must describe the property, the reason for eviction, and the notice given to the tenant. The landlord must swear that the information is true.

Serving the Eviction Notice 

After filing, the landlord arranges for the court to serve the tenant with the eviction complaint and a summons to appear in court. This must be delivered by the sheriff's department or a process server.

The tenant has 7 days from receiving the notice to respond in writing. If they don't respond, the judge will likely rule in the landlord's favor.

Court Hearing for Possession

The court will schedule a hearing within 7-10 days after the tenant responds. Both parties can bring evidence and call witnesses. 

If the landlord proves the tenant violated the lease, the judge will issue a writ of possession giving the tenant 7 days to vacate before the sheriff can remove them.

Getting Possession of the Property

If the tenant doesn't leave within 7 days, the landlord can request the court have the sheriff forcibly remove the tenant. The sheriff will supervise the removal of the tenant and their belongings.

The landlord can then take possession, change the locks, and rerent the unit. The eviction will also be recorded on the tenant's credit report and rental history.

Notice Requirements for Landlords

Alabama law requires landlords to provide proper notice before starting the eviction process. The notice periods and requirements depend on if the eviction is for cause or without cause.

Termination With Cause

If the tenant has violated the lease, such as by not paying rent or violating rules, the landlord can terminate the lease with cause. In this case, the landlord must provide the tenant with a 7 day notice to vacate. This written notice must state the lease violation and give the tenant 7 days to fix the issue or move out. 

If the tenant does not comply within 7 days, the landlord can proceed with filing the eviction lawsuit.

Termination Without Cause 

For month-to-month leases, landlords can terminate tenancy without any cause or reason. To do this in Alabama, the landlord must provide 30 days written notice for the tenant to vacate. 

For tenants on a fixed term lease, the landlord cannot terminate without cause until the lease ends.

Timeline for Tenants to Respond

Once receiving a notice to vacate, the tenant has the specified number of days to either fix the issue (for notices with cause) or move out by the deadline (for no cause notices). 

If they do not comply with the notice, the landlord can proceed with filing for eviction at the end of the notice period. Tenants should take notices seriously to avoid having an eviction filed against them.

Filing the Eviction Complaint

In Alabama, a landlord can file an eviction complaint as soon as the notice period from the eviction notice expires. This means if the landlord gave the tenant 7 days' notice to comply or vacate, the landlord can file the eviction complaint on the 8th day if the tenant has not complied.

The eviction complaint is a legal document that the landlord files with the court to start the formal eviction process. The complaint states the landlord's legal grounds for removing the tenant. It will identify the property, the tenant, and the reason for eviction. Common grounds for eviction in Alabama include:

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Violation of the lease terms 
  • Damage to the property
  • Criminal activity 

The complaint will state the facts surrounding the reason for eviction. For example, for nonpayment of rent, it will list the amount of rent owed and the timeframe. The landlord needs to provide documentation like notices given to the tenant and rent ledgers.

The landlord is responsible for properly serving the tenant with the complaint and summons to appear in court. In Alabama, this can be done by:

  • Personal service by handing it directly to the tenant
  • Substituted service by leaving it with a family member over the age of 19 at the rental unit
  • Posting on the property if the tenant cannot be located 

The summons will give the date, time, and location of the eviction hearing, usually scheduled 7-10 days after filing. The tenant must appear and respond to the complaint or a default judgment will be issued against them.

Court Hearing and Judgment

The eviction complaint will be scheduled for a court hearing, usually within 1-2 weeks after being filed and served to the tenant. This is when the eviction case goes before a judge. 

Both the landlord and tenant have the right to appear at the hearing. The hearing provides an opportunity for both sides to present evidence and make their case.

The landlord has the burden of proving the allegations in the complaint. This usually means providing documentation like the lease agreement, notices given to the tenant, ledgers of unpaid rent, photographs of property damage, police reports, and other relevant evidence. 

If the tenant does not show up, the judge will likely rule in favor of the landlord by default and issue a judgment of possession. If the tenant does appear, they can try to fight the eviction by raising defenses. For example, they can argue the landlord did not properly terminate the lease, did not make needed repairs, or is retaliating against the tenant. However, the tenant should have documentary evidence to back up their claims.

After hearing from both sides, the judge will make a decision on the case. If the landlord has sufficiently proven their claims, the judge will issue a judgment of possession in favor of the landlord. This means the landlord has a legal right to regain possession of the property. 

The written judgment serves as the eviction order. It will state that the landlord is awarded possession of the premises. The judge can also award any backed rent owed or damages to the landlord. The tenant will have a short period of time, usually 7 days, to appeal the judgment if they choose.

If the tenant does not move out within the time period ordered by the judge, the landlord can get a writ of possession to have the tenant removed by law enforcement. The sheriff's department will then forcibly remove the tenant if they do not vacate.

Removal of Tenants

After a judge issues an eviction order, the tenant must vacate the rental property. If the tenant does not leave voluntarily, the landlord can enlist the help of law enforcement to forcibly remove the tenant and their belongings from the property. 

Law enforcement, typically the county sheriff's department, will arrive to oversee the eviction. They will require all occupants to immediately leave the rental unit. The sheriff's department can remove the tenant's belongings from the property and leave them outside, such as on the curb or sidewalk. The landlord is not responsible for safeguarding the tenant's possessions.

Once the rental unit is vacant, the landlord can legally change the locks to prevent the evicted tenant from re-entering. The landlord does not need permission from the court or sheriff to change the locks at this stage. The eviction order from the judge gives the landlord full right to take back possession and exclude the tenant.

If the tenant tries to return and re-enter the property after being removed, they can be charged with trespassing. The eviction order gives the landlord the legal authority to treat the tenant as an unwanted intruder if they attempt to move back in without the landlord's consent.

Tenant Defenses Against Eviction

Tenants in Alabama have several legal defenses available if a landlord files for eviction. 

Reasons Tenants Can Fight Eviction

  • Payment of rent: If the tenant can pay all back rent owed before the court hearing, this is a defense against eviction for nonpayment of rent. The tenant should keep receipts as proof.
  • Landlord failed to maintain property: If the rental unit has defects like mold, broken appliances, pest infestations etc. that violate health codes, the tenant can raise this as a defense. The tenant should have photographic evidence and documentation of requesting repairs. 
  • Landlord retaliation: If the eviction comes right after the tenant filed a complaint against the landlord or requested repairs, this may be considered retaliation which is illegal.
  • Discrimination: If the eviction is based on the tenant's race, gender, religion, nationality, disability etc. then the tenant can allege discrimination.
  • Landlord did not provide sufficient notice: If the landlord did not properly serve the tenant with the required eviction notices, this can invalidate the eviction case.

Responding to the Lawsuit

Tenants must submit a written response ("answer") to the court within 7 days of receiving the eviction lawsuit otherwise a default judgment will occur. The answer should raise any defenses and request a jury trial. Tenants can represent themselves or hire a lawyer.

Asking the Court for More Time 

If a tenant needs more time to move out, they can ask the judge for an extension of the eviction order before sheriffs arrive to remove them. Reasons like illness, disability or having children finishing a school term may persuade the court to delay eviction a few weeks.

After Eviction Order is Issued

Once an eviction order has been issued by the court, the tenant will have a set number of days to vacate the property, as specified in the order. This is usually between 3 and 7 days in Alabama. 

If the tenant fails to vacate the property by the deadline, the landlord can ask the court clerk to issue a Writ of Possession. This document allows the county sheriff to forcibly remove the tenant and their belongings from the unit.

The sheriff will visit the rental unit on the date specified in the writ, which is usually within a week of it being issued. If the tenant is still there when the sheriff arrives, the sheriff can supervise the forcible removal of the tenant. The landlord can choose to be present as well.

If the tenant still refuses to leave after the sheriff arrives, they may be physically removed from the unit and any belongings left behind can be set out on the curb. The sheriff can also arrest the tenant for trespassing if they refuse to vacate.

Once the unit is vacated, the landlord can change the locks and take possession of the property. Any belongings left behind by the tenant can be considered abandoned property that the landlord can dispose of or sell, after following proper procedures.

If the tenant causes any damage to the unit by refusing to leave or vacating late, the landlord can file a civil lawsuit against the tenant to recover costs related to repairs, lost rent due to the unit being unrentable, attorney fees, and court costs.

The landlord should keep detailed records of any expenses incurred because of the eviction and tenant's failure to vacate on time. This documentation can help the landlord recover costs by suing the former tenant for damages.

Long-Term Consequences   

An eviction can have significant long-term consequences for tenants beyond just losing their current housing. 

Credit and Rental History

An eviction judgment will likely appear on the tenant's credit report, damaging their credit score. Most landlords also do rental history checks, and will be hesitant to rent to prospective tenants with an eviction on their record. Having an eviction judgment can make it much more difficult for the tenant to find new housing.

Future Difficulties Renting  

In addition to credit checks, landlords often use tenant screening services when reviewing rental applications. These screening services compile rental histories and public records to create a tenant score. An eviction judgment will bring down the tenant's overall score, making it challenging to qualify for rentals that use tenant screening.

Public Records

Eviction cases are public record, meaning the details are accessible to anyone. The court records related to the eviction will remain searchable indefinitely. This creates a lasting stain on the tenant's rental history. Details like the amount owed in rent and damages will be part of the public record.


How long does an eviction take in Alabama?

The eviction process in Alabama can take between 2-6 weeks from start to finish if the tenant does not contest the eviction. Here are the general steps and timelines:

  • Landlord gives tenant written notice to vacate (typically 7-14 days)
  • Landlord files eviction complaint with court (immediately after notice period ends)  
  • Tenant is served with the court summons (5-10 days)
  • Court hearing is held (within 7-10 days of summons)
  • Judge issues eviction order if landlord wins (within 5 days of hearing)
  • Tenant has 7 days to appeal the order (stops eviction temporarily) 
  • If no appeal, sheriff enforces order and removes tenant (within 10 days of order)

So in a straightforward case with no tenant objections, the soonest a tenant could be removed is around 3 weeks. With an appeal, the process could extend to 6 weeks or longer. But every case is different.

What are the grounds for eviction in Alabama?

In Alabama, landlords can legally evict tenants for the following reasons:

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Violation of lease terms 
  • Damage to property 
  • Criminal activity 
  • Refusing access to the unit
  • Holdover tenant after lease expires  
  • Illegal activities on property

The most common grounds for eviction are nonpayment of rent and lease violations. Landlords cannot evict for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons.

What is the eviction process in Alabama?

The eviction process has several main steps:

  1. Landlord gives proper written notice to the tenant to vacate for cause. This is typically 7-14 days depending on the reason.
  2. If a tenant fails to comply, the landlord files an eviction complaint with the court and pays the filing fee. This starts the lawsuit.
  3. The court summons the tenant to appear for a hearing. A copy of the complaint must be served on the tenant. 
  4. On the court date, both parties present evidence. If the landlord proves grounds for eviction, the judge will issue an order of eviction.  
  5. If a tenant doesn't appeal within 7 days, the sheriff can forcibly remove them after a few days' wait. Their belongings may be removed and put into storage.

The tenant can fight the eviction to delay it or have the case dismissed if the landlord did not follow proper procedures. It is advisable for both parties to have an attorney.

Tenants Late On Rent? Eviction Services Are Available from Hemlane

If you find yourself dealing with tenants who are consistently late on rent payments, it can be a stressful and frustrating situation. However, you don't have to face it alone.

Hemlane is here to assist you in navigating the eviction process and ensuring that you receive the rent you are owed, all while minimizing costly court fees. Explore our eviction services and on-demand delinquency management today.

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