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Rental Tenants vs. Landlords: What are your rights?

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - WHNT News 19 has received a number of apartment renter complaints recently.

While each matter was unique, they had one thing in common: they claimed to have informed their landlord or property manager of the problem, but that problem had not yet been solved.

WHNT News 19 sat down with local Landlord-Tenant Attorney Sarah Taggart to educate us on renter's rights, as well as landlord's rights.

Here are some important steps to take as a renter:

  • Notify your landlord of the issue

"A tenant has the ability to give a 14-calendar day notice to their landlord for health and safety related repairs," explained Taggart. "The landlord has 14 days to address the repairs. If they don’t, the tenant's remedy is to move and then sue the landlord for the cost of the move or the breach.”

This only applies to health and safety related repairs.  We're told cosmetic repairs don't hold the same weight.

  • Make sure you submit your request in writing

Type up your request and make sure to include the date, your name, and your unit number. Also, mention all important details in your submission. Make sure you keep a copy for your records.

  • Don't refuse to pay your rent because the repairs have not been done

Oftentimes, a tenant's first decision is to withhold rent payment until their repairs are made. According to state law, a tenant does not have the right to withhold rent while repairs aren`t being made.

If you are a landlord, it's also illegal to refrain from repairing a unit because a tenant refuses to pay rent.

"Under Alabama state law, a landlord's obligation to make repairs, and a tenants obligation to pay rent, are what we call concurrent, not contingent obligations,"  Taggart stated. "They don't depend on one another. You classically see a landlord say, 'I'll make a repair when the tenant pays rent.' That's just as wrong as a tenant saying, 'I'll pay the rent when a landlord makes repairs.'"

Failure to pay rent could very likely result in a tenant legally being evicted.

"If you have a non-payment of rent case, the remedy (for Landlords) is a seven-business day notice for them to pay the rent to avoid eviction or move," added Taggart.

You can find the full Alabama state code that governs Landlord-Tenant relationships here.

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