Our client was sued as a co-defendant in an unlawful detainer action. After signing the lease with her boyfriend, she fled the apartment in March 2019, due to domestic violence. Our client had been living with her long-term boyfriend for 15 years, and she finally fled from their rental home with her two daughters for safety.
Our client properly notified the landlord of her situation involving domestic violence and of her departure. Additionally, she obtained a Protection from Abuse Order and provided the landlord with a copy of it. The rent, which was always paid in full by her boyfriend, was current as of the time our client departed. After leaving the residence, our client’s boyfriend sought to intimidate her into coming back to him, by telling her he would not pay the rent if she didn’t return to the relationship. Our client, however, was determined to move forward with her life.
Our client now resides in a shelter and has a job. Her boyfriend did not want her to work a job due to his jealousy and desire for control.
Our client’s boyfriend made several calls to her employer and supervisor after she left, attempting to get her fired, but lucky for our client, she had an understanding and sympathetic boss. Despite the new job, our client was having difficulty getting a lease to move from the shelter because she had an unlawful detainer lawsuit pending against her. After a hearing in June 2019 on possession, our client came to Legal Services Alabama (LSA) for legal assistance.
Birmingham Staff Attorney Lisa Overton filed a Motion to Bifurcate the Lease (and absolve the client from responsibility), a Motion to Set Aside the Possession Judgment, and moved to dismiss all claims against our client with prejudice. Overton argued that the Court, in reviewing actions pursuant to the Alabama Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, was empowered to hear evidence and consider the unconscionable effects of a rental agreement. Ala. Code § 35-9A-143(b). Overton further argued that the effect of this rental agreement that lacked an early termination provision for domestic violence, was unfair and unconscionable as applied to our client. LSA won!
The Court entered an Order setting aside the possession judgment entered in June, granting the motion to bifurcate, and dismissing the entire lawsuit against our client, citing “very good cause” for its actions. The co-defendant and abuser remains on his own in the lawsuit! At the end, our client was so overjoyed and tearful! LSA is excited for the new opportunities that await her!
At LSA, we put our hearts into providing quality legal representation to vulnerable individuals and families statewide. If you, or someone you know needs legal assistance, please visit www.legalservicesalabama.org or call 1-866-456-4995 to learn more about our services.
By: Lisa Overton, Birmingham Staff Attorney