Landlords in Alaska can’t just change the locks, toss your belongings out on the front yard, or shut down essential utilities. A landlord must follow the eviction process in order to have a tenant evicted for any reason. Here's an overview of what this means for tenants in Alaska.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated November 17, 2021
If you live in an apartment, rental unit, or another type of housing in Alaska where you pay rent, you have special rights. These are most prominent when it comes to the process of eviction. This article explains the basics of Alaska’s eviction laws and the legal rights and protections tenants and renters have during the eviction process. We’ll also cover some things you can do to prevent an eviction and what other resources you can use if you’re facing eviction.
What Is Eviction?
Eviction is a process where a landlord or property owner takes legal action to remove a tenant or renter from real property, like an apartment or home. In Alaska, this process is called Forcible Entry and Detainer (F.E.D.).
Landlords must follow special procedures outlined in the Alaska Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (AURLTA) to evict a tenant. Also, landlords can only evict tenants if certain conditions exist, such as the nonpayment of rent. If a landlord doesn’t follow the AURLTA, doesn’t first get court approval, or tries to evict someone for an improper reason, the landlord could be guilty of illegal eviction.
Regardless of the reasons for the eviction, Alaska has the same general eviction process. But depending on why the landlord wants to evict the tenant, there are a few minor differences in what the landlord must do before trying to evict a renter.
Who Can Be Evicted in Alaska?
The majority of evictions take place between a landlord and tenant. A landlord-tenant relationship exists when two parties enter into a lease agreement. This contract outlines the rights and responsibilities of each party. These will typically include the payment of rent and property obligations, like maintaining access to utilities and keeping the property in reasonable condition.
Evictions can also occur in less common situations. For example, if someone is a squatter, the landowner may need to proceed with an eviction process to remove them from the property. A squatter is an individual who is living on a property without permission but isn’t considered a trespasser under state law. Also, anyone living with a tenant can be evicted, even if they didn’t sign the lease.
Upsolve User Experiences2,231+ Members Online
Why Can Someone Be Evicted in Alaska?
Under Alaska law, landlords can begin the F.E.D. process for many reasons, including the lease is terminated or expires and isn’t renewed or if the tenant(s):
Don’t pay rent
Violate the terms of the lease
Fail to pay utilities
Refuse to give the landlord lawful access to the property
Do illegal activities on the premises
The eviction process is the same for each of these reasons, but there are differences in how much notice the landlord must give before starting the eviction process. Another major difference is whether the tenant gets an opportunity to fix whatever problem is triggering the eviction proceeding.
Late, Short, or Behind on Rent?
Many evictions in Alaska occur when a tenant has rent due, but can’t pay it on time. This can include being late with rent, having unpaid rent, or paying too little rent.
A landlord must give written notice to the tenant that they have unpaid rent and the landlord intends to terminate the lease if rent isn’t paid. Seven days after providing this written notice, if rent is still not fully paid, the renter’s legal right to the property ends and the landlord may begin to evict the tenant.
Keep in mind that this is the minimum amount of time and notice a landlord must provide for past-due rent before they try to evict the tenant. Depending on the terms of the lease agreement, or if the landlord promises otherwise, the tenant could have extra time to catch up on back rent. Some leases also include a grace period before a rental payment is considered late.
Lease Expiration or Termination
Tenants can also be evicted in Alaska if their lease agreement is no longer valid because it has expired and not been renewed or the landlord has terminated it. When this happens, the tenant no longer has the legal right to remain on the property. In either situation, an eviction may occur regardless of a renter’s ability or willingness to pay rent.
When a lease term ends or expires, the tenant can only remain on the property if the lease is extended or renewed. Both the tenant and the landlord must agree to renew a lease. If the tenant refuses to leave the property after the lease ends, the landlord can file a forcible entry and detainer action.
Landlords can also terminate leaves, but only under certain conditions, such as when a tenant fails to follow the terms in the lease agreement. If your landlord claims that you violated your lease so they’re going to evict you, that doesn’t mean they’re correct. Alaskan landlords must first get a court to approve the reasons for the eviction by filing an eviction in court.
The Alaska Eviction Process
The following is a basic overview of how evictions work in Alaska. The following information applies to residential evictions between landlords and tenants.
What does a landlord have to do to begin an eviction?
Before beginning the eviction process, the landlord must first give proper notice. In Alaska, this is called either a Notice of Termination of Tenancy or a Notice to Quit. Depending on the reason for the eviction, this notice will identify the reason(s) for the eviction and how much time the tenant has to correct the problem and stop the eviction. In cases where the eviction is the result of nonpayment of rent, the landlord must give notice by using form CIV-725 Notice to Quit.
In situations where tenants can fix the problem and avoid eviction, the amount of time they have will vary. At a minimum, Alaska law requires landlords to give tenants:
Seven days’ notice for nonpayment of rent.
Ten days notice for a breach of the lease’s term(s) not involving illegal activity.
Three days notice for failure to pay utilities.
The landlord (or the landlord’s representative, like a property manager) must serve the Notice of Termination of Tenancy or Notice to Quit by either:
Hand-delivering the notice to the tenant or another person at the property;
Leaving a copy of the notice at the property; or
Mailing the notice by registered or certified mail.
What happens once the eviction action is filed with the court?
The eviction proceeding begins when the landlord files a forcible entry and detainer complaint (CIV-730) and summons (CIV-105) with the court. The complaint will list what the landlord is asking for from the court and give information supporting their request. The summons will provide information about who’s suing you and the eviction hearing’s date and time. It’ll also have basic information about what you can do next.
The landlord may also file other documents with the court, but the complaint and summons are the two major documents that must be filed. The landlord also has to serve you with these documents. In most cases, the landlord will serve you with the complaint and summons by hiring a process server or peace officer (like an Alaska State Trooper).
You must be served with the complaint and summons at least two days before the eviction court hearing. If you aren’t, you can ask for the hearing to be postponed. It’s important to attend this hearing, or you risk having a default judgment entered against you. This means you lose the case because you didn’t show up.
Even though you could get served with the complaint and summons only a few days before your eviction hearing, you have up to 20 days to respond to the complaint with an answer. One reason for this is that forcible entry and detainer actions in Alaska can consist of two parts.
The first part deals with eviction. Here, the court will decide if the landlord has the legal right to evict you. The second part deals with damages. This second phase only applies if the landlord wants to recover money for back rent or property damage. During this hearing, your landlord will make their arguments and submit any evidence for support.
It’s during this second hearing concerning damages that you’ll need to prepare your answer and file it with the court. If you don’t prepare and file an answer with the court, you risk having another default judgment entered against you. If you choose to prepare an answer, be careful with what you write. Any admission you make to the landlord’s allegations could be held against you in court. If you disagree with your landlord’s allegations against you, it’s a good idea to consult with a tenant’s rights lawyer for legal advice to help you with your eviction case.
In most cases, there will be separate hearings for the eviction and damages. You could also have two default judgments entered against you — one for the eviction and the other for monetary damages. But if you want to avoid either situation, you’ll need to file an answer in response to the landlord’s complaint and appear at the eviction hearing that’s listed on your summons.
Telling Your Side of the Story: Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaims
In a civil lawsuit, a defendant can raise affirmative defenses and counterclaims. Affirmative defenses are legal defenses that address the plaintiff’s allegations. As the defendant, you must be proactive in raising these. An example of an affirmative defense is that you tried to pay your full unpaid rent amount within the time period provided in your notice, but the landlord refused to accept it.
A counterclaim is a separate legal claim you bring against your landlord. For instance, if your landlord unlawfully changed the locks to your apartment when you were late paying rent and you had to spend the night at a hotel, you could file a counterclaim asking for reimbursement for the hotel stay. Because Alaska splits the eviction process into two parts, you’ll have two opportunities to set out any defenses to your landlord’s attempt to evict you or collect damages from you.
Defenses During the Eviction Hearing
During the eviction hearing, you can present your defenses directly to the judge. But before you do, the landlord will provide testimony and documentation to support their reasons for evicting you. This may include a copy of your lease, copies of canceled checks, receipts, photographs, or other relevant information.
After the landlord presents their case, it’s your turn to respond. Depending on the defenses you raise, you’ll want to bring any individuals who can serve as witnesses and any documents you have that support your claims.
For example, imagine your landlord wants to evict you for nonpayment of rent, but you withheld rent because you had no heat in the winter. You can assert this defense by simply telling the judge. But you’ll have a much stronger case if you have evidence. This could include another tenant with the same problem or an estimate from a contractor who told you how much it’d cost to repair the broken heater inside your apartment.
After presenting your defenses, the judge may allow the landlord to respond. After both sides have made their cases, the judge will make a decision
Defenses During the Damages Hearing
If there’s also a damages hearing, it will be similar to the eviction hearing. The landlord will present their case and evidence. Then you’ll have your chance to present your case and evidence. But the damages hearing is different from the eviction hearing because if you want to raise any defenses or counterclaims, you’ll need to first identify them in your answer to the landlord’s complaint.
During your eviction hearing, you can present both affirmative defenses and counterclaims, but make sure that any counterclaims directly relate to the eviction. If you have a separate legal issue with your landlord, you may be better off filing a separate lawsuit to deal with that claim.
Like other states, Alaska will recognize certain affirmative defenses and counterclaims in an eviction proceeding. The most common involve poor living conditions where the property fails to meet basic habitability standards or if the living conditions aren’t as promised. For example, part of your rent includes free internet, pool, and gym access, and you were provided none of these, yet your landlord still asked you to pay full rent.
What Happens After an Eviction Trial?
If the judge sides with you at the eviction hearing, you’ll get to continue staying at the property. If the judge sides with the landlord, you’ll be ordered to leave the property within a certain amount of time, sometimes as few as two days. If you don’t leave the property by the court-set deadline, the landlord may request a Writ of Assistance (CIV-575). If the court grants the Writ of Assistance, a peace officer (likely an Alaska State Trooper) will come to the property and forcibly remove you.
If you lose your case, whether at the eviction or damages hearing, you have the right to appeal. If you decide to file an appeal, you have 30 days from the day the judgment is distributed.
One thing to remember is that an appeal isn’t a new trial. Rather, the appellate court will review the court record from the eviction or damage hearing to see if the judge made a mistake concerning a question of law. What this means is that an appellate court may review a judge’s decision to allow a particular person to testify as a witness. But the appellate court won’t second-guess the judge’s decision to find that particular witness credible (or not).
If you do file an appeal, understand that it won’t automatically stop the landlord from evicting you or collecting the monetary judgment. But you can ask the court to permit you to stay on the property until your appeal is complete. If the judge agrees to do this, they might require you to post a bond with the court until the appeal is complete.
Practical Tips for Tenants Facing Eviction in Alaska
If you’ve received notice of a potential eviction, there are several tips you can follow to help fight, prevent, or get through eviction. Depending on what your goal is, some of the following advice won’t apply to your eviction.
Tip #1: Gather evidence.
If you believe you have defenses and/or counterclaims to the eviction, you want as much supporting evidence as possible. If there are any documents, photographs, videos, social media screenshots, or any other evidence to support your arguments, gather and organize these as soon as you can. If relevant to your defense, contact a municipal building inspector to visit the property and prepare a report about its condition.
Tip #2: Don’t be afraid to ask to reschedule your hearing.
If you have a compelling reason for not making your hearing, contact the court and ask to have the hearing rescheduled. Alaska law requires the court to grant continuance requests of up to two days or longer under certain conditions. Even if the court denies your request, it’s still a good idea to ask. If you make a reasonable request to reschedule the hearing, the judge is less likely to grant the landlord a default judgment.
Tip #3: Cover your actions.
If the landlord allows you to catch up on unpaid rent or cure your lease, document what you’re doing whenever possible. If you send money to your landlord, be sure to get a receipt. Also, be sure you do these things within the allotted time period. If you’re late with a make-up rent payment, you might still face an eviction proceeding. And if you and your landlord agree to something, make sure it’s in writing and both you and the landlord or property manager sign it.
Tip #4: Communicate with your landlord.
Sometimes, explaining your situation to your landlord can help you come to an agreement. Perhaps your landlord has the legal right to begin evicting you but is willing to give you more time to make your late rent payments or stop violating your lease agreement.
Even if there’s no way to stay in your apartment, you could negotiate an agreement to have your landlord drop the eviction case as long as you move out by a certain date. Having an eviction in your rental history can make it harder to find another place to rent. So having the eviction case dropped will make it easier for you to find a new rental. But negotiating an agreement like this isn’t possible unless you’re willing to talk to your landlord.
Tip #5: Don’t give up.
Getting a Notice to Quit can be stressful. But don’t give you. There are ways to stop an eviction or at least minimize its negative effects. If you want additional help with your eviction, there are many resources available.