Alabama Tenants' Rights After Landlord Retaliation

Tenant Remedies After a Landlord Retaliates

There are situations where a landlord may not be happy with a tenant’s actions, even if the tenant was legally within his or her right to perform such an action. The landlord may attempt to react to this action in a way that is not legally allowed. These acts of retaliation are prohibited under Alabama’s Landlord Tenant Act. Learn the rights an Alabama tenant has after landlord retaliation.

Why Might a Landlord Retaliate in Alabama?

Sometimes landlords and tenants have conflicts.

Often, these conflicts can be resolved peacefully. Other times, the landlord or tenant may be so unhappy with the other party’s action that he or she may commit a retaliatory action that is not within their legal right.

Here are three reasons a landlord may attempt to retaliate against a tenant in Alabama:

1. The tenant has contacted a government agency that is responsible for dealing with housing or building code violations about a health or safety issue at the property.

2. The tenant has complained to the landlord about an issue regarding how the landlord is maintaining the premises. This could include:

  • A health or safety violation,
  • A repair,
  • Maintenance of plumbing, electrical, heating, cooling, appliances or other facilities,
  • An issue with the common area,
  • Garbage or waste removal,
  • The supply of heat or hot water.

3. The tenant has joined or organized a tenant’s union or similar group.

What Actions Are Considered Landlord Retaliation in Alabama?

If a landlord is unhappy with a tenant’s action, he or she may choose to retaliate.

These acts of retaliation are usually in an effort to get the tenant to move out of the property. Alabama code lists certain acts that could be considered acts of retaliation. These include:

  • Increasing a Tenant’s Rent
  • Refusing to Make Necessary Repairs
  • Refusing  to Perform Needed Maintenance
  • Decreasing or Cutting Off Essential Services to the Tenant
  • Decreasing or Cutting Off Essential Utilities to the Tenant
  • Physically Removing a Tenant’s Possessions From the Property
  • Filing for an Eviction- Commonly Known as a Retaliatory Eviction

Alabama Tenant’s Rights After Landlord Retaliation

If a landlord has performed an act of retaliation against a tenant in Alabama, a tenant has certain rights. Examples of acts of retaliation can include turning off utilities or services, such as gas or electricity, to the tenant’s dwelling unit, raising the tenant’s rent or trying to illegally evict the tenant from the premises.

The tenant has two options:

  • Recover Possession of the Rental Unit- If the tenant has been illegally evicted, and the court awards judgment for the tenant, the tenant can elect to move back into the rental unit.

  • If the court has awarded judgment in favor of the tenant, the tenant can decide they no longer want to live in the rental and can elect to terminate the rental agreement without consequence.

Whether the tenant elects to stay in the rental unit or to terminate the rental agreement, the tenant could be awarded a maximum of three months’ rent or actual damages, whichever is greater, as well as reasonable attorney’s fees. The landlord is also responsible for returning whatever portion of the tenant’s security deposit that is owed back to the tenant, as well as any prepaid rent.

Landlord’s Right to Evict in Alabama

In spite of any action or retaliatory action that the landlord or tenant has performed under this section, the landlord may still have the right to evict a tenant in the state of Alabama under the following circumstances:

  • The health or safety violation that the tenant reported to the landlord or to a government agency was caused by a lack of “reasonable care” by the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household or someone whom the tenant allowed on the premises.

  • The tenant is in default on their rent.

  • Fixing the building, health or safety violation would require work on the property, such as remodeling or demolition, which would hinder the tenant’s use of the unit.

  • Other material breaches to the lease agreement.

The court will determine whether the landlord has legal grounds to evict the tenant or whether injunctive relief will be granted to the tenant.

The landlord may still be responsible for paying actual damages to the tenant plus reasonable attorney’s fees.

Alabama’s Code on Landlord Retaliation

If you would like to view the section in Alabama’s code relating to landlord retaliation, please consult §§ Section 35-9A-204, 35-9A-401(b), Section 35-9A-407 and Section 35-9A-501.