Authored By: Legal Services Alabama


If you get eviction papers from the Sheriff, you only have a short time to act. If you do not answer an eviction action quickly, you will end up being put out on the street. This article tells you what you can do to get your day in court - and how to put on your best case.

What can I do if the Sheriff gives me eviction papers or leaves them for me?

  • If you get an eviction notice - also called an Unlawful Detainer - you must act quickly and not ignore it.
  • If you get Unlawful Detainer eviction papers, you file an answer at the Courthouse.
  • Look carefully at your papers. Sometimes, the Court automatically sets a trial date for an Unlawful Detainer right on the papers that the Sheriff gives you.

How do I know the Sheriff brought me an eviction action?

  • Look at the top of the page.
    • For an Unlawful Detainer eviction, the top line in the middle says "STATEMENT OF CLAIM - COMPLAINT." The words "Unlawful Detainer" are in the second line.
    • It may also talk about Alabama Code Section 6-6-310.
  • If the Sheriff leaves the papers at your door, then you should also get a copy in the mail.

How much time do I have?

  • Alabama Court Rules give you seven (7) days (one week) to answer an eviction.
  • If the seventh day falls on a weekend or holiday, you can answer on the next business day.
  • If you have a question about the date you were served, check with the Court clerk's office to make sure not to miss your deadline.
  • If you get eviction (Unlawful Detainer) papers, read them carefully.
  • In an eviction (Unlawful Detainer), the papers are supposed to give you a Court date. If they do, you must go to Court on the date and at the time the notice says.
  • If the papers do not give you a Court date, the papers should give you seven (7) days to answer. Answer within the time the papers say.

What happens in Court?

  • Your landlord gets a chance to say why you should be evicted, and then you get a chance to say why you should not.
  • Most evictions are for nonpayment of rent. In these cases, the Judge usually considers only two issues.
    • The first is whether the tenant paid the rent, or fixed the problem within 7 days.
    • The second is whether the landlord sent a proper termination notice.
    • The landlord's notice must state the reason why the landlord is demanding possession of the rental property.
    • Your lease says how much notice your landlord must give you. Your landlord must then wait at least this long before bringing the eviction action.
    • If the lease does not state a time, the minimum time is seven (7) days.
  • If your landlord says that you broke another provision of your lease, you get a chance to show that you did not break the lease provision. You can also challenge the notice.

Can I appeal?

  • You can go to the District Court Clerk's Office to appeal to Circuit Court.
  • In an Unlawful Detainer eviction, you have exactly one week to appeal. Unless the seventh day is a holiday, you must file by that day.
  • You have to pay rent into Circuit Court in order to remain in your home.


Back to top