Alabama Security Deposit Laws in 2024

Why You Should Understand Alabama Security Deposit Laws

Renting an apartment or home in Alabama? As a renter, one of your main concerns is likely getting your security deposit back when you move out. This guide provides an overview of Alabama security deposit laws and highlights key provisions renters should know.  

Understanding your rights and responsibilities under Alabama landlord-tenant law will ensure your security deposit experience goes smoothly. We'll cover everything from how much a landlord can charge to necessary procedures for inspecting your unit and returning the deposit. Follow along for advice on avoiding disputes over deductions and making sure you receive proper documentation.

By the end, you'll have the knowledge to protect your deposit, save money, and steer clear of problems. Let's begin...

Maximum Security Deposit Amount 

The maximum security deposit amount that a landlord can charge is capped under Alabama state law. For unfurnished units, the maximum security deposit is equal to 1 month's rent at the start of the lease. For furnished units, the maximum security deposit a landlord can charge is 2 months' rent at the start of the lease. 

So if the monthly rent for an unfurnished apartment is $1,000 per month, the maximum the landlord can collect for a security deposit is $1,000. For a furnished apartment rented at $1,000 per month, the landlord can lawfully collect up to $2,000 for a security deposit. Any security deposit over these limits would be a violation of Alabama Code Title 35, Chapter 9 and should be disputed by the tenant.

Returning the Security Deposit

Per Alabama Code § 35-9A-201(a), within 35 days after the end of the lease and the tenant leaves the premises, the landlord must return the tenant's full security deposit unless there are deductions for damages or unpaid rent. The landlord must provide the tenant with a written itemized list of any damages or rent being deducted within that same 35 day timeframe.  

If the tenant has fulfilled all obligations under the lease and the landlord does not provide the security deposit or deduction notice within 35 days, then the landlord loses the right to withhold any portion of security deposit. In this situation, the tenant is entitled to the full amount of their deposit back.

So to summarize, Alabama law establishes the following guidelines regarding the return of the tenant's security deposit at the end of a lease:

  • Landlord has 35 days after move out to return the deposit or provide deductions list
  • If no damages or unpaid rent, full deposit must be returned within 35 days 
  • Must provide written notice if any deductions; tenant entitled to view receipts/estimates
  • If landlord fails to provide deposit or notice within 35 days, they forfeit deposit deductions rights

The clear timeframes help avoid situations where tenants are waiting months to get their security deposits back or to find out if deductions were made. Both sides have an interest in resolving security deposit accounting soon after the lease ends.

Allowable Deductions from Security Deposits

Alabama law allows landlords to deduct money from a tenant's security deposit for unpaid rent, damages beyond normal wear and tear, and any other deductions specifically agreed to in the lease.

Unpaid Rent

If the tenant fails to pay all rent due under the lease agreement, the landlord can use the security deposit to cover the unpaid amount. This includes rent from any period of the tenancy, not just the most recent month.

Damages Beyond Normal Wear and Tear

Landlords can deduct from the security deposit to repair or fix any damages to the unit caused by the tenant or guests that exceed normal wear and tear. This includes things like:

  • Stained or excessively dirty carpet that requires replacement 
  • Holes in walls that require drywall patching and repainting
  • Stained kitchen counters or appliances
  • Broken interior doors, cabinets, or fixtures
  • Damage to flooring that needs refinishing  
  • Pest infestations caused by tenant negligence

Other Lease Terms

If the tenant violates other agreed-upon terms in the lease, the security deposit funds can be used to remedy these violations. For example, if the tenant has an unauthorized pet or resident living in the unit, the landlord can deduct money from the deposit for related damages or extra rent charges.

The landlord must provide an itemized list of all deductions from the tenant's security deposit within the 35 day window after move-out. Tenants have the right to dispute and challenge any improper or excessive deductions.

Normal Wear and Tear

Normal wear and tear refers to the natural deterioration that occurs over time with the standard use of a rental property. Landlords in Alabama cannot deduct from a tenant's security deposit for normal wear and tear.  

Some examples of normal wear and tear that landlords cannot charge tenants for upon move-out include:

  • Minor scratches, scuffs, or nail holes in walls
  • Faded paint or wallpaper over time  
  • Worn carpet fibers or minor permanent stains like foot traffic wear  
  • Tile grout discoloration 
  • Minor plumbing drips and leaks over time
  • Appliances working less efficiently over time  

Excessive damage that is beyond normal aging, such as large holes in walls or broken appliances, would not be considered normal wear and tear. Dirtiness that requires extensive cleaning would also typically not qualify as normal wear and tear that landlords must excuse at move-out.

Tenants should keep in mind that while landlords cannot charge for ordinary wear and tear, tenants are still responsible for avoiding preventable property damage during their stay. Doing regular cleaning and maintenance can help minimize deductions from a security deposit upon moving out.

Overall, normal wear and tear describes the inevitable decline in a property's condition with standard inhabitance over time. Alabama landlords cannot deduct from the security deposit for such standard deterioration at the end of the lease term.

Tenant Rights

As an Alabama renter, you have a number of important rights when it comes to security deposits:

Receiving Your Full Deposit in 35 Days

If your rental unit is clean and undamaged beyond normal wear and tear when you move out, Alabama law requires your landlord to return your full security deposit within 35 days. They cannot make any deductions unless you left behind any unpaid rent or damages exceeding normal wear and tear.

Disputing Excessive or Unfair Deductions  

If your landlord provides you an itemized list of deductions from your deposit that you believe are unfair or excessive, you have the right to dispute those deductions in small claims court for up to 6 months after move-out. Make sure to thoroughly document the condition of your unit with photos and video at move-in and move-out to support your case.  

Documentation is Key

The best way to protect yourself as a renter is through documentation. Take dated photos and video that clearly show the condition of the unit when you move in and out. Do a walkthrough inspection with your landlord and keep a signed copy noting any pre-existing damages. And request a final walkthrough before moving out to address any needed cleaning or repairs. With evidence in hand, you'll be prepared to dispute any unfair charges.

Landlord Obligations

Under Alabama security deposit law, landlords have the following key obligations:

Timely Return of Deposits

  • Landlords must return the tenant's full security deposit or provide written notice of any deductions within 35 days of when the tenant moves out of the rental property. 
  • If no deductions are being made, the full security deposit amount must be sent to the tenant's last known address within the 35 day timeframe.

Itemized List of Deductions

  • If the landlord does intend to deduct any amount from the deposit for damages, unpaid rent, or other allowable charges, they must provide the tenant with a written "itemized list of deductions" explaining the reasons for each deduction.
  • This list should specifically describe any damages being charged and provide cost estimates for the repair or replacement.

Proper Notice Procedures

  • Written notice of deductions should be sent to the tenant's last known address via first class mail within the 35 day period. Improper or incomplete notice can jeopardize the landlord's right to make deductions.
  • Tenants should provide the landlord with a forwarding address when moving out to ensure proper mail delivery of deposit notices.

Focusing on timely return, itemized deductions, and proper notice procedures will help protect both the tenant and landlord's rights under Alabama law. Following proper security deposit protocols is key for a smooth move-out process.

Tips for Protecting Your Security Deposit  

Protecting your security deposit begins even before you move in. Here are some tips for renters to follow:

Conduct a Move-In Inspection

Schedule a walkthrough inspection with your landlord and document any existing damage so you do not get charged for it later. Get the landlord's sign-off on the written inspection form and review anything you would like to add.

Take Pictures and Videos

After the walkthrough inspection, take your own detailed photos and videos of any existing damage or issues. This visual evidence will be crucial if the landlord tries to charge you for damage that was there upon move-in.

Keep The Unit Clean

Follow the terms of your lease and perform all regular cleaning, maintenance, and repairs. Be proactive about addressing small issues before they become bigger ones. Resolve any concerns by sending written requests to your landlord. Save copies of any correspondence as proof.   

Prevent Damage

Do not alter any locks, features, walls or paint without written permission. Use furniture pads under legs and avoid high heels or rolling suitcases on the floor.  Close doors and windows when it rains to avoid leaks or water damage.

Prepare for Move-Out

Give sufficient notice as specified in your lease. Schedule a joint move-out walkthrough inspection with your landlord. Fix holes in walls, patch grout, clean thoroughly, and make any repairs you are responsible for as stated in your lease.

Following these tips will help protect your security deposit and prevent any unjustified deductions. Protecting your rights starts with proactively documenting everything and communicating regularly with your landlord in writing.

Disputes and Recourse

If a tenant disagrees with any deductions taken from their security deposit, they have the right to dispute them. There are a few options to settle security deposit disputes in Alabama:

Small Claims Court

  • Tenants can choose to file a claim for the disputed amount up to $3,000 in  small claims court
  • Cases must be filed within 6 months of receiving written notice of deductions
  • Tenants will need to provide evidence to counter the landlord's charges, such as photos/video, the move-in inspection report, receipts for cleaning/repairs they performed themselves.
  • If the deductions are proven invalid or excessive, the court can order the landlord to refund the tenant accordingly.

Attorney General/Housing Authority

  • Tenants can file a complaint about improper security deposit deductions with the Alabama Attorney General's Consumer Interest Division
  • Public housing tenants may also contact their local public housing authority for complaints related to security deposits.
  • Authorities investigate complaints for potential violations of state housing laws, unfair practices, retaliation against tenants etc.  
  • If violations occurred, the Attorney General can order landlords to make restitution to the tenant, pay a fine, or take corrective action.

Having documentation is key when disputing unfair deposit deductions. Tenants should maintain meticulous records like a move-in inspection report, photos/videos, repair receipts, and written communication with the landlord. They significantly increase the chances of recovering your deposit through legal action.

Key Takeaways

Alabama security deposit law protects both the tenant and landlord's interests while capping deposits and stipulating return timeframes. Key aspects to remember include:

  • Security deposits cannot exceed 1 month's rent for unfurnished units or 2 months' rent for furnished units
  • Landlords have 35 days after move-out to return deposits or provide written notice of any deductions
  • Normal wear and tear is not grounds for deductions from the deposit
  • Tenants can dispute deposit deductions they deem excessive in small claims court
  • Thoroughly documenting the condition of the unit and paying all rent on time helps ensure full deposit return


What is the time limit for returning a security deposit in Alabama?

Alabama landlords have 35 days after the tenant moves out to return the full security deposit or provide written notice of any deductions.

Can a landlord keep my security deposit for normal wear and tear in Alabama?

No, under Alabama law, normal wear and tear is not grounds for a landlord to deduct costs from a tenant's security deposit. Only damages beyond regular use can be deducted.

What can I do if my landlord doesn't return my security deposit in Alabama?

If your landlord does not return your deposit or provide an itemized list of deductions within 35 days, you can file a lawsuit in small claims court within 6 months of moving out to recover your deposit.

How much can a landlord require for a security deposit in Alabama?

Alabama landlords can charge up to 1 month's rent for an unfurnished unit and up to 2 months' rent for a furnished unit. Local laws may further restrict security deposit amounts.

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