The Alaska eviction process can be complicated as it involves different notice requirements before a lease can be terminated. As in all states, the landlord who is seeking to evict a tenant must abide by the state laws, court rules and procedures. Following the rules is the only way to successfully evict a tenant who has failed to pay rent, breached a material provision in the lease agreement, committed a criminal act, engaged in conduct that materially affects the safety or health of others, or who refuses to leave after the lease term has expired.
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Self-Eviction is Illegal
A landlord who engages in any activity to force a tenant to leave the rental property without following the Alaska eviction process may be liable to the tenant for damages. Such conduct includes denying essential services such as heat and electricity, changing the locks, removing the tenant’s personal belongings or threatening the tenant.
Notice to Quit
The initial step in any eviciton is the service of the requisite Alaska eviction notice. There are different notice requirements depending on the reason for the eviction. For every notice, however, it must state the following:
- Specific reason for the eviction such as nonpayment of rent or material noncompliance with a certain provision in the rental agreement.
- Amount of time the tenant has to correct the breach or to pay the rent.
- Date and time when the tenant must vacate if the breach is not remedied.
- That a lawsuit will be filed if the tenant continues to occupy the unit past the stated termination date.
For nonpayment of rent, the Alaska eviction notice must allow the tenant 7 days to pay in full. A landlord can accept partial payment and extend the time of eviction at his or her discretion but he or she has effectively waived the right to terminate the lease for nonpayment of rent. For other eviction reasons, other times to vacate apply.
If the eviction is for substantial damages to the unit, which must total at least $400, the notice can be as little as 24 hours after service of the notice.
For evictions regarding committing a criminal act or for not paying utilities, the notice need only be 5 days.
For reasons other than those indicated above, the notice is 10 days after receipt of the notice.
Should the noncompliance be remedied but the tenant commits the same breach within 6 months, the landlord need only give 5 days written notice along with specifying the breach and the date of the lease’s termination. In these cases, the landlord need not accept any remedial action by the tenant to cure the breach.
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Service of the Notice
Service of the Alaska eviction notice on the tenant should be personal and may be made by the landlord. If the tenant is absent, the landlord may attach the notice to the unit’s door or he or she may serve the notice by registered or certified mail. The landlord can prove service by keeping a written record of the service. A form provided by the court for the Notice to Quit provides a space for detailing how and when the service was made.
If the notice is sent by mail, the tenant has 3 additional days to cure the breach. For example the tenant has 10 days to pay the rent if nonpayment is the reason for the eviction.
Alaska Forcible Entry and Detainer Action
The next step in the Alaska Eviction Process is court action. Once the deadline for correcting the breach has passed and the tenant continues to occupy the unit, the landlord must file and serve a Summons and Complaint for Forcible Entry and Detainer, or an F.E.D. The summons and complaint must be served by a peace officer or process server on the tenant.
There are two phases in the F.E.D. action if the landlord makes a request for damages or the tenant countersues for damages. The first phase is the eviction hearing, which can take place within 2 days after service of the summons and complaint and not more than 15 days after the case is filed. The summons will state the time, date and location of the hearing. The second phase is the damages portion, which is heard after the eviction hearing is completed.
The tenant is given 20 days to answer the summons and complaint but should respond promptly. A counterclaim can be made if the tenant alleges the landlord breached the rental agreement and owes damages to the tenant, which must be responded to by the landlord.
If the tenant needs to continue the hearing and will be contesting the eviction, he or she can do so by filing a motion with the court and delivering a copy to the landlord before the hearing date. There must be a legitimate reason for the continuance such as time to gather documents or for witnesses to appear. Forms for the motion to continue are available at the court.
If a continuance is granted, the court may require the tenant to obtain a surety bond or to deposit cash with the court equivalent to the rent due during the continuance period.
Alaska Eviction Defenses
A tenant has a number of defenses available in a F.E.D action including the following:
- The landlord has violated his or her obligation to provide a residence fit for habitation by not remedying hazardous conditions.
- The landlord has failed to provide essential services such as hot and cold water, heat, ventilation and others so long as the tenant has given written notice to the landlord who has had a reasonable opportunity to provide these. Proof of noncompliance by the landlord could result in a court-ordered reduction of the rent or even termination of the lease by the tenant with no further obligations.
- The landlord has initiated self-eviction measures such as turning off utilities, changing the locks or removing the tenant’s personal belongings.
- Retaliatory eviction. The tenant is being evicted for complaining about the property’s condition or has tried to enforce his or her tenant rights and the tenant is current with the rent.
- Discrimination. The landlord is evicting the tenant based on the tenant’s nationality, religion, race, sex, marital status, children, pregnancy or disability.
- The Notice to Quit was improperly served or it did not contain the required content such as the reason for the eviction or the deadline for complying.
The eviction hearing is held before a judge only. A nonappearance by the tenant will result in a default and an order to the tenant to vacate but the landlord must still prove that the Alaska eviction notice requirements were met, that the summons and complaint was properly served, and that the reason for the eviction has been proved. If present, the tenant can present evidence of any defenses or counterclaims. The eviction phase does not address any issues of damages or for rent due and owing.
If there are damages involved such as past rent and other costs, or if the tenant has alleged damages by having to pay for requested repairs or was otherwise damaged by the landlord, the court can order a damages hearing at the conclusion of the eviction hearing. Both parties should document their damages and provide receipts, photographs and other evidence.
If the tenant fails to appear at the eviction hearing and the landlord requests a default judgment, the landlord can file a Default Application and obtain a Judgment for Possession. If both parties appear and after all evidence is produced and reviewed, the court can order judgment for the landlord. The court can also order some other judgment that may reduce the amount of rent owed or allow the tenant to vacate with no further obligations.
If judgment is for the landlord, a Writ of Assistance must be obtained by the landlord and given to the sheriff or other law enforcement to forcibly remove the tenant. Should the tenant leave any personal belongings behind, the landlord can either leave the items in the unit or store them for 15 days. If the tenant does not claim the property after this time, the landlord can dispose of the property.
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