If you own or manage a rental property in Georgia, you need to know about the local landlord-tenant laws in Georgia. This overview will get you started, but remember that the laws can change, and new laws may be passed. For more information on the laws in Georgia, see the Georgia Landlord-Tenant Handbook.
If you are renting out a property in Georgia, you can get landlord insurance from Honeycomb. You can get a quote online here, it typically takes 5 minutes or less.
What are Georgia’s rent and payment laws?
The lease agreement should include the amount of rent, when it is due, how to pay it and any late fees.
The landlord may be able to raise rent during the lease, but only if the lease includes a provision that allows this. If a new owner takes over the property, that owner will generally need to follow the terms of the lease, including the rent amount and the rules for raising rent.
If a tenant leaves early without the landlord’s permission, the landlord is not required to try to find another tenant. Instead, the landlord can leave the unit empty and hold the tenant responsible for rent through the end of the lease, assuming the lease does not state otherwise.
Are there security deposit requirements?
Georgia landlords may want to charge a security deposit to protect themselves financially in case tenants cause damage. In Georgia, pet deposits and advance rent deposits that are refundable are considered part of the security deposit. If a landlord owns more than 10 rental units, security deposit funds must be kept in an escrow account.
The landlord must return the security deposit within one month if the tenant moves out without owning any money or having damaged the unit. Reasonable cleaning costs may be deducted. Landlords with more than 10 units must provide a formal inspection of the unit within three days of the termination of the lease.
Can landlords charge late fees?
Most landlords charge late fees for rent that is paid after the due date.
According to the Georgia Landlord-Tenant Handbook, the lease should include the amount of rent due, the due date and any grace period. The lease should also state what the late charges are and what the returned check charges are. To avoid confusion, the lease should also provide information on how to deliver rent and which payment methods are accepted.
What’s the process for evicting tenants?
Self-help evictions are illegal in Georgia. According to the Georgia Landlord-Tenant Handbook, the eviction process consists of eight steps:
- The landlord should read the lease and comply with the terms.
- The landlord must give the tenant a demand for possession. This should be in writing.
- The landlord must file a dispossessory affidavit under oath.
- The landlord must have the dispossessory affidavit legally delivered to the tenant – usually by local law enforcement.
- The tenant has seven days to answer the summons.
- If the tenant files an answer with a valid defense, there will be a court hearing.
- If the court rules in the landlord’s favor, the landlord can request a writ of possession requiring the tenant to move out and pay past rent owed.
- Both the landlord and the tenant have a chance to appeal.
Eviction processes are often the result of past due payments. When a landlord tries to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent, the tenant has seven days to pay the rent owed. If the rent is paid in this time, the tenant cannot be evicted. However, the landlord only has to accept one late payment in a 12-month period.
Is a written rental agreement required?
Because verbal rental agreements can lead to misunderstandings, written leases are recommended. The lease can be for any length of time, but if the lease covers a period of more than a year, additional requirements may apply.
There are certain things that landlords cannot include in the lease. For example, landlords cannot use the lease to relieve themselves of their responsibility to maintain the property. Landlords cannot insert clauses saying that they can evict a tenant without going through the eviction process or that they do not have to follow other laws. They also can’t include clauses requiring the tenant to pay for the landlord’s attorney fees if the landlord hires a lawyer to enforce the lease.
What are the rekeying laws?
In some cases, tenants may want to change the locks, especially if they are dealing with domestic violence or other safety concerns.
According to the Georgia Landlord-Tenant Handbook, leases typically state that the tenant cannot change the locks unless they have permission from the landlord. However, if the lease doesn’t say anything about changing the locks, tenants may change the locks without seeking permission and without giving the landlord a new set of keys. However, the tenant must provide the new keys or restore the original locks when leaving the unit or the landlord will be able to deduct the cost from the security deposit.
To avoid problems and disputes, this is a good topic to include in the lease agreement.
Can landlords create pet rules?
Landlords may want to include pet rules in the lease. These rules may include restrictions on the types of animals that tenants can have as well as rules about cleaning up after the pet.
The Georgia Landlord-Tenant Handbook says that landlords may try to evict tenants for violating pet rules. This is true even if the landlord has not previously enforced pet rules.
Some landlords may want to ban pets entirely. However, they must comply with Fair Housing Act rules. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, individuals with a disability can request to keep an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation to pet restrictions, and housing providers are required to provide this accommodation as long as certain criteria are met. Furthermore, emotional support animals can be considered assistance animals. An assistance animal is any animal that works, provides assistance or performs tasks to benefit a person with a disability or any animal that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability.