At Level Property Management, we understand that, no matter how good your tenants are they could break their lease. This could happen for a variety of reasons that could be both within or without the law’s support.
As a landlord, it is important that you are familiar with your rights and your tenants’ rights when it comes to the potential early termination of a lease. So, we at Level Property Management have put together the following article so that you can understand where you stand should a tenant try and break their lease and keep your property rent ready.
Renters Rights & Responsibilities When Signing a Lease in Alabama
Before we go into exactly how and why a lease could be broken, its important to first have an overview of a renters rights and responsibilties in Alabama. As violations of any of these terms usually form the basis of an attempt to break a lease.
Under the Alabama Landlord Tenant Laws, renters have the following rights:
- To live in a habitable property and be treated fairly as described by the Fair Housing Act.
- To have any repairs made within a reasonable period after requesting them from the landlord.
- Be provided all facilities and amenities promised in the lease.
- To be taken through the proper eviction process, should it apply.
- Have their security deposit managed correctly and returned within the guidelines of Alabama law.
Similar to landlords, renters also have several responsibilites that they must follow under the Alabama landlord-tenant laws:
- To keep the property clean and habitable.
- To pay rent, on time, as per the lease agreement.
- To avoid damage as much as possible and report it if damage occurs.
- Not to cause unnecessary disturbance to other tenants or neighbors.
- Not to partake in illegal activity while at the rental property.
- Allow reasonable access to the landlord so that they can carry out their responsibilities.
- Notify the landlord prior to moving or be away from the property for an extended period.
Legally Unjustified Reasons for Tenants to Break their Lease in Alabama
As a landlord, you should be aware that the law provides renters with a few legal reasons for breaking there lease. But, these reason’s aren’t very common, in our experience a renter is more likey to try and break their lease for a reason that is not supported by the law, such as the following:
Moving into a New Property
One of the main reasons that an Alabama tenant may leave your rental property is that if they choose to move into a new one. However, the terms of your lease agreement will be very specific about its start and end date.
Tenants may view moving to a new property as a justifiable reason for leaving a rental property and breaking a lease. But the Alabama laws do not support them in this circumstance. Should a tenant move out before this end date, no matter what property they move to, then they would have illegally broken their lease and be liable as per the Alabama laws.
Relocating Nearer A School or Workplace
Proximity to work and school would have been an important part of your tenants decision making process when they selected your property. Equally, should these circumstances change, a tenant may be motivated to move out before the lease ends to their new school or workplace.
But, as important as this may be to your tenant, the dates at which your lease agreement starts and ends are iron clad. Similarly, Alabama laws do not view this as a reason why someone could legally break their lease.
Moving In With a Friend or Partner
Circumstances for your tenants can change, they may have a new partner or financial circumstances, but this does not impact the state of your lease. If a tenant chooses to leave your property to move in with another person, then the law does not support them if they try and break their lease.
In this case, the renter must keep up their responsibilties under the lease and the Alabama laws.
Moving Out and Away From A Partner After Divorce or Seperation
Seperations and divorces are incredibly stressful, especially if the parties live together. But this will not impact your lease agreement. The terms of the lease agreement in this case are more legally important than the terms two parties may leave each other over.
Therefore, if a tenant of yours chooses to leave your property because they can no longer live with other parties who are there, they are still obligated to maintain their responsibilties as per the lease agreement.
Legally Justified Reasons for Tenants to Break their Lease in Alabama
Even though the majority of lease breaches come from a place that the Alabama law doesn’t support. There are some circumstances in which a tenant can break their lease legally. These reasons are incredibly important for you to be aware of as all of them are avoidable or you can prepare for.
- Early Termination Clause: Should you include one in your lease, the law will support it.
- The Unit is Not Habitable: If you fail to meet the Alabama habitability standards, you’d be in violation of the Ala. Code § 35-9A-204. As a result, the law considers you to have “constructively” evicted your tenant.
- Violating the tenant’s privacy As per Alabama landlord-tenant law, a landlord must provide their tenant with advance notice prior to them entering the property. Specifically, you must serve them a 24 hours’ advance notice prior to accessing their unit. The only exception to this is in case of an emergency or where there is a court order.
- Landlord Harassment or exaggerating or falsifying improper conduct by the tenant in order to evict the tenant.
The law will support a tenant for any of the above reasons, but its important to know that that service members are treated differantly under Alabama law with respect to when they can break a lease agreement.
The Tenant Enters Active Military Duty
Joining active military duty usually involves being deployed or changing location. If any of these occur, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) will protect the tenant against any penalties for breaking the lease early.
The protection by the act begins immediately when the military assignment starts and ends 30 to 90 days after getting discharged.
This, however, doesn’t mean that the tenant can just leave unannounced. They have an obligation to notify you of their intention to leave, as well as provide you a copy of the deployment letter.
Once they have done this, the earliest the lease can end is 30 days after the next rent period has started. According to code § 35-10-70 of Alabama law, the protection by the act only applies to the following.
- The United States Coast Guard
- Armed forces (both on reserve and regular)
- Alabama National Guard on ordered federal duty
Landlord’s Duty to Find a Replacement Tenant in Alabama
Landlords in Alabama have a duty to mitigate damages. In other words, landlords have a responsibility to make reasonable steps to re-rent their unit after their tenant leaves.
If you have a question regarding the Alabama landlord-tenant laws or need expert help in managing your Fairhope rental property, Level Property Management Group can help. We have over 15 years of property management experience in Fairhope and the surrounding areas. Get in touch to learn more!
Disclaimer: Laws change frequently, and this blog may not have been updated to reflect that. Therefore, this blog isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice from a qualified attorney or property management company.