5 Things for Georgia Landlords to Know

Tenant Check January 23, 2020
Cora Younie

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5 Things for Georgia Landlords to Know

With a population of over 10 million, Georgia is home to a diverse community. The state’s landlord-tenant laws are primarily dictated by nationwide legislation. Landlords and tenants rely on what few guidelines are outlined before resorting to resolving issues in court. We have outlined here the general legislation in place.

Security Deposit

Charging

There is no limit to what can be charged for the security deposit. Most landlords in Georgia charge at least one month’s rent for a security deposit. When renting the apartment the landlord must provide a list of preexisting damage to ensure that new tenants don’t get charged for damage they didn’t cause.

Holding

Security deposits must be held in an escrow account or a surety bond. If you chose to put the money in an escrow account, it must be in the state of Georgia and only used for security deposits. For the surety bond, it must be with the clerk of the superior court in the county where the apartment is located, not where the landlord lives, if those are different. 
This holding stipulation is not required for landlords that manage their own property and have fewer than ten units.

Returning

Security deposits must be returned within 30 days of the tenant vacating the unit. Georgia restricts withholding security deposits to the following:

  • Unpaid Rent, Utilities, or Late Fees
  • Abandonment or Damage of Property
  • Damages from Breach of Lease

The vacated property must be inspected within 3 days of the tenant moving out. No damages can be charged against the security deposit if the property isn’t inspected within 3 days. If withholding any or all of the deposit due to damage to the property, an itemized list and estimated cost must be provided to the tenant. 
The former tenant may inspect the apartment, within 5 days of moving out, to dispute any amount of the deposit that may be wrongfully withheld through a lawsuit with the Magistrate Court.

Lease Agreement

Written Agreement

If a lease is 12 months or longer, there must be a written lease agreement. Oral agreements are legal and enforceable for agreements for less than 12 months.

Late Fees

In the case that late fees will be implemented a late fee clause must be included in the lease. This clause must include the following agreements between the tenant and landlord:

  • The late fee is for the purpose of compensation for additional costs due to the late payment.
  • The additional cost incurred by the landlord in the case of late payment is difficult to ascertain.
  • The late fee established in the lease agreement is a reasonable estimate for additional costs incurred due to the late payment of rent.

Renewal of Lease Agreement

In Georgia, it is assumed by all parties that a lease ends at the end of the lease terms unless outlined differently in the lease. If the lease automatically renews, it is likely to continue on a month-to-month basis.

  • Landlords must provide a 60-day notice if they are ending the lease agreement
  • Tenants must provide a 30-day notice if they are ending the lease agreement

Repairs and Access for Maintenance or Repairs

Repairs

There is no legislation around how long a landlord has to make repairs to a property. It is an option for the tenant to do the repairs and deduct it from their rent, but this should be cleared with the landlord before using that remedy. Any time estimates for when a repair should be completed is dependant on the severity of the damage.
It is up to the tenant to prove that a unit is unlivable or needs more than ordinary repairs. This is when a tenant can move out without further obligation to pay rent.

Access to Unit

There are no legal restrictions to when the landlord can enter the property. This will need to be outlined in the lease. If entry times and required notice are not outlined in the lease, the tenant can legally refuse entry except in the case of an emergency. The landlord could also be liable by entering the property during an unreasonable time.

Termination and Eviction

Non-Payment of Rent

Georgia landlords can insist on rent payment as soon as it is due. An eviction can then be filed with the local court. The tenant then has 7 days to pay the rent to avoid the eviction.

Violation of Lease

In most states, if a tenant violates the terms of their lease and doesn’t fix or resolve the violation in a certain time frame, options are available to terminate the lease agreement. Georgia does not have separate legislation for violations of a lease agreement.

Unconditional Quit Eviction

Immediate eviction is permitted when a tenant doesn’t pay their rent more than once within 12 months.

Distress for Rent

When a tenant owes rent and is moving out, a landlord can file a “distress for rent” lien in court. This lien will allow the landlord to sell the tenant’s property for the payment of rent. The landlord does not have to give the tenant a “pay or move out” notice.

Military Exceptions

Under Georgia law, there are exceptions for active military members. These exceptions include:

  • Ending a lease without penalty when the tenant…
    • Is sent on active duty or has temporary duty 35 miles or more from the rental unit
    • Is released from duty and their home address is 35 miles or more away
    • Receives orders to move into government housing
  • The landlord can only charge the next month’s rent, after receiving a written copy of their military orders
  • The landlord may still charge for any repair costs of damage caused by the tenant