Alabama House passes bill that would erode renters’ rights

In a setback for renters throughout Alabama, the House voted 78-4 Thursday to erode protections for the state’s tenants. HB 421, sponsored by Rep. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay, now moves to the Senate.

HB 421 would reduce the number of curable, or fixable, breaches of a lease in a year from the current four to just two. The bill also would change state law to allow landlords to kick out tenants if a breach of the same provision, no matter how minor, occurs twice in a six-month period.

This bill would allow landlords to force tenants from their homes over just two or three minor mistakes. Families could be ousted as few as seven days after repeating the same minor offense, such as letting vehicle tags expire, no matter how quickly they remedy the problem. Another example: If within one year, a person parks in the wrong space, cares for a friend’s pet overnight in a pet-free apartment, and changes their own oil in the parking lot, this bill would allow eviction proceedings to begin under many rental agreements.

One bright note Thursday was when Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham, successfully amended HB 421 to remove language that would have hurt tenants even more. (Coleman was one of four House members to vote against the final bill.)

HB 421 originally would have given Alabama renters just three days to correct a lease violation, down from the current seven. It also would have cut the required notice period for lease termination from seven days to three days. But Coleman’s amendment stripped both of those harmful changes from the bill and clarified that the “seven days” in those two provisions means seven business days. The House adopted her amendment 81-5.

Despite Coleman’s amendment, the bill remains hostile to the interests of renters across the state. Alabama’s 2006 Landlord-Tenant Act set out a balanced set of protections for both sides of rental relationships. But HB 421 would tilt those scales back in landlords’ favor at the expense of more than 1 million everyday Alabamians who rent their homes.

By Dev Wakeley, policy analyst. Posted March 8, 2018.