Alabama's renter protections at risk under HB 421

Just three days. If HB 421 becomes law, that’s all the time Alabama renters would get to correct a minor lease violation before landlords could kick them out of their homes. It would be a bad deal for more than 1 million Alabamians who rent their homes.

HB 421, sponsored by Rep. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay, would undermine important safeguards for Alabama renters. This bill would reduce the time for renters to cure, or fix, a lease violation from the current seven days to just three days. That would apply not just to unpaid rent but to any other breach of the contract. The bill also would change current state law so that any second breach of the same provision, no matter how minor, within a 12-month period would be incurable.

Current law allows tenants to cure up to four lease violations within a 12-month period as long as those breaches don’t involve activities such as illegal drug use or criminal assault. Here’s one example of just how unforgiving HB 421’s changes would be for tenants: If a landlord on a Friday found a tenant’s guest’s vehicle parked outside a rental home for a second time without a valid tag, the tenant could end up on the street by Tuesday.

Alabama’s 2006 Landlord-Tenant Act set out a balanced set of protections for both sides of rental relationships. Families shouldn’t be kicked out of their homes over minor mistakes. But HB 421 would tilt the scales back in landlords’ favor by allowing disproportionate responses to minor breaches, while giving tenants no meaningful chance to fix issues before losing their homes.

By Dev Wakeley, policy analyst. Last updated Feb. 28, 2018. Originally appeared in Arise’s February 2018 newsletter.

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