Renting out a property means establishing not only the rent amount but the parties responsible for paying the utilities. Regardless of how the utilities are divvied up between landlord and tenant, make sure to have the agreement in writing, typically a written rental agreement. Alabama stipulates that the landlord is not responsible for paying utilities unless it is agreed to in the rental agreement. The text of the law can be reviewed at Ala. Code 1975, § 35-9A-404(a).
Setting up utilities, and penalties for failure to provide
For those utilities and services that are the responsibility of the tenant, the tenant has three days after the start of the agreement term to get the utilities set up and to have the utilities or services billed directly to the tenant. The tenant has options if the landlord willfully or negligently fails to promptly make available heat, running water, hot water, electric, gas, or some other essential service. The tenant must provide notice of the breach to the landlord and can then do one of the following:
- Terminate the lease agreement. The tenant must send a written notice to the landlord with the date of termination, which must be at least 14 days after the landlord is to receive the notice. The rental agreement is considered terminated once the tenant so vacates the premises, and the tenant has no further obligations or penalties. The landlord must return all security recoverable by the tenant and all unearned prepaid rent.
- Remain, and be reimbursed. The tenant can choose to remain in the premises, but the tenant is allowed to recover damages based upon the diminution in the fair rental value of the premises.