Alabama Governor Kay Ivey recently signed two laws affecting landlords, Act No. 2018-473, which amends the Alabama Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (the “Landlord-Tenant Act”), and the Alabama Assistance and Service Animal Integrity in Housing Act. The new laws are summarized below.
Amendments to the Landlord-Tenant Act. On March 28, 2018, Governor Ivey signed Act No. 2018-473, making the following changes to the Landlord-Tenant, effective on June 1, 2018:
• Extension of Time to Cure Defaults. Tenants now have seven business days (instead of seven calendar days). Therefore, landlords will need to update their notices of default to give tenants proper notice of their opportunity to cure. Alabama Code §35-9A-421.
• Further Limitations on Curing Breaches. Tenants may only cure a breach of their lease two times (instead of four times) in a twelve month period (whether it is the same type of breach or not), and Tenants may only cure the same type of breach once during a six month period (an entirely new provision). Ala. Code §35-9A-421. While this should allow landlords to evict problem tenants in a timelier manner, they must decide how broadly they want to enforce this provision and do so consistently to avoid running afoul of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (the “FHA”). To proceed under this provision, landlords should serve a proper notice of curable default upon any breach that is curable so that they will clearly have the option of evicting on the third such breach. A typical “warning” letter may not be sufficient. The bottom line is all tenants should be treated consistently.
• Broadened Non-Curable Default Language. Review Act No. 2018-473 to see the expanded language replacing what was simply “possession” of illegal drugs and “discharge” of a firearm to account for the numerous ways tenants can engage in illegal activity with drugs or firearms.
The Alabama Assistance and Service Animal Integrity in Housing Act.
On March 15, 2018, Governor Ivey signed Act No. 2018-235, effective June 1, 2018. This Act (a) codifies federal law allowing landlords to request reliable documentation of a disability or the need for an assistance animal in certain situations and (b) makes it a misdemeanor criminal offense to misrepresent the need for a service or assistance animal or misrepresent an animal as a service or assistance animal. This should allow landlords to fight back more effectively against bogus assistance animal requests. It is best practice to consult with an attorney in responding to service animal or assistance animal requests, as federal law in this area is still tenant-friendly and Alabama’s new statute is untested.
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