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Landlord Access Rights

When can a landlord enter a tenant’s rental property? There are times when notice alone is acceptable, or even no notice at all, but sometimes consent is required. Read the rules, below. They are an excerpt from the book available for sale on this website, Alabama Landlords Desk Reference and Forms Book. (more info HERE)

Tenant reasonable consent

The landlord may (of course!) request permission for access.  The tenant is not allowed to unreasonably withhold its consent for :

  • Inspections
  • Necessary or agreed repairs
  • Decorations, alterations, or improvements
  • The provision of necessary or agreed services
  • The purpose of showing the premises to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workmen or contractors.[1]
  • (With the right language in your lease, a tenant who unreasonably withholds its consent can be declared in default and/or fined.)

No consent required

Sometimes consent is not possible. There are emergencies, or tenants don’t return phone calls, or there is no time, such as a prospect who wants to look at a property during their lunch hour, right now. ARLTA provides some help for such situations.

No consent is required in the case of:

  • Emergency[2]
  • Court order[3]
  • Tenant failure to maintain property and landlord must enter and remedy[4]
  • Landlord has reasonable cause to believe the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the property[5]
  • Performance of tenant-requested repairs[6]
  • During any absence of a tenant in excess of 14 days, the landlord may enter the unit at times reasonably necessary[7]
  • Showing the property to tenant- or buyer-prospects in the last 4 months of the term, but only if this is authorized in a document separate from the lease. It can be signed at the time as the lease signing, but is effective only during the final four months of the term. Both landlord and prospective tenant or purchaser must be present during the showing. In other words, the property cannot be put on a lockbox for access by other persons.[8]
  • Scheduled pest control , repairs, maintenance or health/safety, but only if this is authorized in a document separate from the lease. It can be signed at the same time as the lease signing, but if that is fewer than two days before the first regularly scheduled entry, then regular notice and consent is required for that first visit The schedule can be for specific dates, or for a designated time period, such as the second Tuesday and following Wednesday of each month.  If it is impracticable to give prior notice, then the landlord may enter without notice. .[9]

Two days’ notice unless that is impractical

If the landlord wants to show the property to prospective tenants or purchasers or lenders, it must at least TRY to give two days’ notice. The notice can be satisfied by posting a note on the main door of the dwelling.  If notice is not practical under the circumstances, then no notice is required.[10] The landlord cannot use this limited exception as a tool to harass the tenant, and cannot abuse its rights under this limited exception. (Footnotes with citations appear at the end of this article)

More Info: Landlord Book

[1]Ala. Code §35-9A-303(a)

[2] Ala. Code §35-9A-303(b)(1)

[3] Ala. Code §35-9A-303(b)(2)

[4] Ala. Code §35-9A-303(b)(3), which makes reference to Ala. Code §35-9A-422 and the landlord’s right to enter and remedy problems causes by tenant’s failure to comply with Ala. Code §§35-9A-301 related to various tenant responsibilities to maintain the property and not cause damage to it.

[5] Ala. Code §35-9A-303(b)(5)

[6] Ala. Code §35-9A-303(e)

[7] Ala. Code §35-9A-423(b)

[8] Ala. Code §35-9A-303(b)(4)

[9] Ala. Code §35-9A-303(d)

[10]Ala. Code §35-(a-303(c)

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Tenant “Paid in Full” Check

What happens if a tenant writes a check for less than full amount due, such as not paying late fees, but writes “paid in full” on the check? Can the landlord deposit the check, or must it be returned?

Naturally, landlords want to get what money they can as soon as possible, and so do not want to return the check. But, does that mean they are giving up the right to collect the unpaid sums?

The short answer is, “No, the landlord is not giving up its rights to additional sums due if it deposits the check.”

In the Alabama Supreme Court decision in Madden v. Deere Credit Services, Inc., 598 So.2d 860 (Ala. 1992) Madden signed a promissory note for a cable skidder purchased from John Deere, and then made payments on an irregular basis. At some point, he wrote a check for approximately $2,400 and wrote “paid in full” on it. Deere Credit deposited the check. They then claimed additional money due, Madden refused to pay it, and Deere repossessed the equipment. The court held that the amount due on Madden’s note was “readily susceptible of precise, mathematical calculation. Madden, therefore, …had no grounds on which to base a good faith argument that he owed” a smaller amount than claimed by Deere Credit.  “We conclude that the debt was liquidated; therefore, Deere’s unqualified endorsement of Madden’s check, which was marked ‘paid in full’ … did not extinguish Madden’s liability.”

In other words, there was no real dispute about the calculations for the amount due, so accepting the check was not a settlement of a dispute. Because it was not a settlement of a dispute, it didn’t matter what Madden wrote on it, the check was not legally a payment in full.

I think that makes it fairly clear that accepting a “paid in full” rent check when there are still outstanding rent charges, late fees, or other fees, does not hurt you. Check with an attorney to be sure, but don’t have a heart attack if you accidentally deposit a check with such a notation. If, on the other hand, a tenant disputes some charges and then marks a check “paid in full,” you should not deposit it. If it is accidentally deposited, then refund the money as soon as you are sure their check will not be returned NSF or some other reason.