What to Do When Tenants Refuse to Leave
The tenant-landlord relationship is a tricky one, and it can be difficult for a landlord to not cross boundaries when he or she feels like his or her property is being abused. However, when a landlord signs a tenant agreement and hands over the keys to the property, they essentially hand over their rights to the property to the tenant. Once this happens, it can be very difficult for the landlord to regain his or her rights while the lease agreement is still valid.
That said, if the tenant either abuses the property or fails to uphold his or her end of the contract, the landlord is not without options. If you are a landlord and if you are having trouble with a tenant who has violated the terms of the contract in any way, you do have rights. The Birmingham real estate attorneys at Cloud Willis & Ellis can help you understand your landlord rights and ensure that those rights are upheld, even when the odds seem to be in the tenant’s favor.
Reasons You Can Evict a Tenant in Alabama
First and foremost, you need to know why you can evict a tenant in Alabama. No, you cannot just evict a tenant because they are rude to you, or because you do not like their lifestyle choices. You need to have a valid reason, which, according to Alabama law, is one of the following:
- The tenant failed to pay rent;
- The tenant broke the terms of the lease; or
- You want to end the terms of a month-to-month lease, in which case, you must give a 30-day notice.
Now, let’s talk about how you can go about evicting a problem tenant.
Notice is Necessary
Legally speaking, you are required to give the tenant either a 7- or 14-day notice depending on your reasons for terminating the lease (Alabama Code Section 35-9A-421). You are also obligated to give the tenant a chance to remedy the situation. For instance, if you want to evict the tenant for unpaid rent, you must give them a 7-day notice that specifies how much is owed, including late fees. If they pay the total amount before the seven days is up, the notice becomes void and you no longer have a reason for evicting them. Likewise, if you cite your reasons for eviction as being their subleasing a room or part of your property, and if the illegal tenant moves out within 14 days of you serving the notice, you no longer have an eviction case.
These laws purposefully make it difficult for landlords to evict tenants simply because the tenant made him or her mad. Just like when a tenant agrees to your terms and conditions upon signing the lease, you as the landlord make a choice in who you let live on your property, and you cannot renege on your agreement simply because you failed to do your due diligence when “hiring” a tenant, so to speak.
The High Road is the Best Road
Too often, landlords try to resolve the issue on their own by turning off the power, locking the tenant out of the home, or scaring the tenant off of the property. Each of these actions is illegal, and by taking measures into your own hands, you risk forfeiting your rights entirely. Even if your actions seem perfectly reasonable, a judge may view your “self-help” measures as harassment and deny your eviction, even if you had a very valid reason for wanting to evict the tenant in the first place. In the worst-case scenarios, your self-help measures may result in damages for the tenant, damages which you may be forced to repay in the end.
You also want to be wary of filing frivolous lawsuits. For instance, you may believe that your tenant having friends over and partying every night is a perfectly valid reason for an eviction, but the judge may tell you that the tenant is free to do as he or she pleases so long as he or she is not violating the terms of the rental agreement. You can be penalized for wasting the courts time, so it is best to keep your claims related to key tenancy problems, such as major lease violations, unpaid rent, or damaged property.
The Right Lawyer Can Help You Uphold Your Rights
At Cloud Willis & Ellis, we understand how frustrating it may be to have a person whom you let live on your property treat you disrespectfully by violating the terms of your lease agreement or behaving poorly in any way. However, we also understand that the law tends to favor tenants, and that by acting rashly you may jeopardize your rights. Do not let this happen, and seek the guidance of an experienced Birmingham real estate attorney before you attempt anything on your own. We can help you deal with stubborn tenants in the best way possible—the legal way. Call our office today to schedule an appointment, or schedule your consultation directly online.