Alabama Evictions, a Breed of Their Own

February 2, 2015

By: Igro Stephens, Associate

In the eviction department at Rubin Lublin, LLC, we handle cases for multiple states including Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. There are some differences in the way an eviction procedure is handled by each state but the most drastic difference is when an eviction action is filed in Alabama. Alabama’s eviction procedure closely follows the timeline and guideline of a regular civil action lawsuit as opposed to an eviction lawsuit in other states which usually follows a more expedited timeline. In order to highlight the differences in procedure, a brief explanation of a usual eviction timeline versus a regular civil action lawsuit timeline is required.

In a regular civil action lawsuit a Plaintiff files a document in Court called a complaint seeking relief from a Defendant. The Court then files the complaint and sends the sheriff to serve the paperwork upon the Defendant to inform them of the lawsuit. The sheriff must personally serve the Defendant by delivering a copy of the complaint to the Defendant or someone at their residence in order to give them sufficient notice of the lawsuit. Once service is made upon the Defendant they usually have 30 days to file an answer with the Court stating their defenses to the claims made in the complaint and possibly file their own claims against the Plaintiff. The answer is then filed with the Court and a copy is delivered to the Plaintiff. The parties, Plaintiff and Defendant, then exchange documents and may file motions with the Court to exclude certain evidence or ask the Court to make a ruling prior to a trial. If the matter is not otherwise resolved by a consent or dismissal of all claims, the Court schedules a trial date and holds a hearing after which a judgment is issued. This whole process can take anywhere from six months to several years depending on the complexity of the claims being made and the willingness of the parties to litigate.

The eviction lawsuit follows a different more expedited timeline then the regular lawsuit. In a usual eviction lawsuit, the Plaintiff files an eviction complaint asking the Court to turn over possession of a certain piece of property which is occupied by a Defendant. The Court sends the Sheriff to serve the eviction complaint upon the Defendant. Unlike the regular lawsuit, the eviction complaint does not have to be personally delivered to the Defendant but may be mailed to the Defendant with a copy tacked to the door of the subject property. Once the complaint is served by either delivering a copy to the Defendant or via tack and mail, the Court usually sets a hearing almost immediately to have a trial on all issues. The trial is usually scheduled within 30 days of the eviction complaint being filed. After the trial, under normal circumstances the Court gives possession to the Plaintiff and the case is concluded. The timeline for an eviction complaint is generally thirty to ninety days.

In Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi the Courts follow the eviction timeline and our firm is able to generally turn over possession to our clients within thirty to ninety days of the complaint being filed. In Alabama, however, the Court follows the civil action lawsuit timeline and therefore the time that an owner is deprived of the possession of their property is lengthened. We understand that each day our clients are deprived of the property costs them money and therefore we employ different tactics to shorten that time. This includes following up with the Court in order to push our cases forward on their docket, reaching out to the Defendants in order to obtain favorable move out agreements, and sending our own process servers to the property to check whether the property is vacant so a needless lawsuit is not filed. Therefore, since Alabama uses a different process for their eviction actions, we are very timeline conscious for our clients to keep Alabama eviction durations more in line with our other states.