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Unpaid Water Bills

You are not liable for your tenant’s bills unless you agree in writing!

Local water authorities cannot make landlord pay former tenant’s past due water bill before turning on water for new tenant. They claim they can, because of their local “rules,” but that doesn’t make it legal. Anybody can make up rules for their handbooks. If you agree, then that’s a contract. Otherwise, it’s just wishful thinking on their part.

Ala Code Section 35-9-15 says, “The provider of goods or services may not require a landlord or real property owner to pay the delinquent bill of a tenant for goods or services provided to the tenant of the landlord if the account for the goods or services is in the name of the tenant. In addition, the provider of goods or services shall not have a lien on the real property for any goods or services provided in the name of the tenant.” Also, Section 35-9-14 says, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any bill for sewer service received in the name of a tenant or tenants, shall be the sole responsibility of the tenant or tenants and shall not constitute a lien on the property where the sewer service was received.”

If local water authorities refuse to connect water for a new tenant just because the old one has an outstanding bill, show them a copy of this article. If that does not work, contact the attorney for the water authority.  Usually, THAT person knows how to read a statute and understand what it means.

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Default After Renewal

College StudentsThis is a problem in college areas because leases are often signed 9-10 months in advance. Is the renewal lease enforceable if the tenant defaults on his or her current lease?

In other words, what happens if a tenant is a good tenant from August through November of 2018 and then signs a renewal lease for August 2019 through July 2020. Then, in May or June of 2019, the tenant defaults on his first lease.  Can the landlord cancel the renewal lease, assuming it wants to do that?

We don’t know. It seems like the landlord SHOULD be able to cancel the renewal lease. On the other hand, I cannot find anything that authorizes that.  My advice: Talk to your lawyers. If recommended, maybe write a new clause into your forms so if a current lease is terminated for any reason, then the landlord will also have the right to terminate a renewal lease.

By the way, don’t forget about purchase options. I recommend that landlords who give purchase options in their leases have a clause saying it is null and void if the tenant defaults.  Some landlords say any default, even if cured. Some say only uncured defaults. Some don’t even think about this issue. At least think about it!

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Default Notices

Effective June 1, 2018, the law changed regarding default notices. Previously, you had to give tenants notice of default and seven calendar days to cure.  After, you have to give them seven business days to cure.

Judges around the state have been throwing out eviction lawsuits unless the default notice specifically says seven BUSINESS days. They are saying it is not enough to say “seven days” in the notice and then wait seven business days before filing the eviction. The statute does not say how the notice must be worded, but the judges are in control when it comes to evictions.  There is no point in arguing with the judge. Just do things their way, and avoid problems.