The law says that, as the owner of a residential property, you have the right to evict tenants if they do not pay rent or if they do not abide by the rules outlined in the rental agreement. It also says, though, that you must respect the rights of the tenants. Landlords cannot physically force tenants out; if the tenants do not leave before the deadline specified on the eviction notice, you must get the sheriff’s office involved to remove them from the property. The best way to avoid getting involved in a costly litigation process like the highly publicized one that happened in Huntsville last fall is to contact an Alabama eviction lawyer before you start trying to get the tenants to leave.
Details of the Eden Springs Case
Dean Richtsmeier, a resident of Indiana, owns the Eden Springs Apartments in Huntsville, Alabama. Some of the tenants do not pay rent directly to him, but rather, he collects the rent from nonprofit organizations such as Good Cause Huntsville and the California-based Peacemakers Love Foundation; both of these organizations help people at high risk of homelessness find stable housing situations. The organizations’ clients pay a “program fee” to the organizations, which in turn pay rent to the landlords on their behalf.
Allen Rounds and another tenant, whose name was not disclosed in news reports, stopped paying their program fees after Deb Jeffery, the property manager of Eden Springs, ignored their maintenance requests and after the maintenance services that Eden Springs did provide was substandard. Eden Springs responded by placing eviction notices on the two tenants’ doors, stating that they had 24 hours to vacate the premises. The following day, they changed the locks. After the eviction, Rounds paid his program fee and notified Eden Springs management of this fact, but the management still did not let him into the apartment to get his medication. Rounds and the other evicted tenant filed a lawsuit against Richtsmeier the landlord, and the nonprofit organizations Good Cause Huntsville and Peacemakers Love Foundation.
Where the Landlords Went Wrong
The courts are likely to find that the defendants violated the law in several ways:
- According to Alabama law, when a landlord terminates a lease because tenants have not paid rent, the landlord must give the tenants seven days to vacate the rental property; Alabama law does not recognize 24-hour eviction notices.
- Changing the locks on a rental unit, effectively locking the tenants out, is not a legally valid way to evict tenants. If the tenants do not leave by the end of the seven-day period specified on the eviction notice, they must call the sheriff’s office and have the tenants escorted from the property.
Do not make these mistakes when trying to evict a tenant from your property.
Let Us Help You Today
An Alabama eviction lawyer can help you prevent an avoidable legal battle over the eviction of tenants who stop paying rent. Contact the Alabama eviction attorneys at Cloud Willis & Ellis for a consultation about how to evict tenants.