Although the State of Alabama attempts to unify the judicial system and the eviction filing process, there are still local variations of how you must file an eviction. In Russell County, they have prepared a nice information packet and sample form for Landlords & Property Managers who want to file their own evictions.
In Russell County, they are a bit picky if you are a management company doing an eviction. They insist that that you have an attorney represent your management company if the case goes into court. In other words, unless you own the investment property yourself, you will need an attorney to represent you.
Essentially, before you file for an Unlawful Detainer (AL Form C-59), you should have already sent your tenants a written 7-day notice of failure to pay rent.
Russell County Sheriff’s Department will make a few attempts for personal service before they simply post a copy on their front door.
The filing fee is $235.00 plus $15.00 for each additional defendant. For most tenants that are couples, it will cost $250.00.
The Russell County Clerk’s office will also insist you provide a photocopy of your lease and tenant’s payment history. This is NOT an Alabama requirement. This is only for Russell County. So come prepared with the photocopy or you will be sent away.
Your tenants will have 7 business days to respond. If they don’t respond, you will automatically win default judgment and you will have to pay another $50.00 to get this. However, you will also get immediate possession of the property.
If your tenants do respond the Unlawful Detainer you filed, you will be given a court date generally 2 weeks out, sometimes even 3 weeks out depending if the judge is in town or not and if you are near any major holidays. If you are gasping for air at this point, I don’t blame you. Waiting another 2-3 weeks for your court date can be a costly endeavor indeed. This is why if you can negotiate possession of the property with your tenants, you should try to do it, within reason. Don’t let your fear of the legal process let your tenants get the upper hand. Remember, they stand to lose a lot by having an eviction record. (As a plug, this is one reason why “The TurnKey Investor’s Rental Property Repossession” was created and how we have reduced our eviction rates by nearly 80%.)
If you do everything correctly, you will almost never lose. Our experience of Judge Bellamy is that he is fair to Landlords and will not let tenants dawdle in your property if they have not paid.
Once you get your judgment, you can move on to the collections stage such as garnishment.
I am increasingly getting dismayed at being a real estate investor in Alabama because it is quite an expensive process to evict a deadbeat tenant. You have to give a 7-day notice of failure to pay rent, then you pay another $250.00, the tenant gets another 7-business days to respond which often translates to 10-calendar days. If they do respond, you lose another 2-weeks waiting for your court date. In all, your deadbeat tenant could get nearly another month of free rent as you wind your way through the legal process.
Basically, you have to lose one month’s rent along with the filing fees. This is why you cannot waste time with your tenants if they are late in paying. Get that 7-day notice out ASAP! You can give them more time to pay if you feel inclined but you can’t give them less time.
Also remember, if you accept any monies after you file, you will invalidate your eviction case and have it thrown out. So, think carefully before you accept any partial payments. We will occasionally accept partial payments but only before we file. But once eviction has been filed and the fees paid, we will see it through unless our tenants pay their back rent plus court filing costs.
Although we have quite a few properties in Alabama, I am downright recommending that real estate investors DON’T buy investment properties in Alabama especially if they are located in Columbus, GA. Why invest in Alabama when the Landlord-Tenant Laws are more favorable in Georgia? The State of Alabama can collect those nice fees but anyone who has a choice are better off channeling their investment capital outside of Alabama.
One of these days, I may write a letter to the Governor, Congressmen, and Senators of Alabama that investors will only invest in those places which will protect the investor.
The 2007 Landlord-Tenant Law Update made some improvements to help the Landlord but it is still not where it needs to be. The “deadbeat factor” and “bubba factor” in Alabama remains high. If Alabama wants to change their perception and rankings in the U.S., they can start by improving the statewide Eviction process and make it a higher priority.