Georgia Landlord Tenant Laws
Georgia has extensive laws that cover landlord-tenant relationships, so it is very important for both parties to be familiar with the state statutes on rental housing. Georgia is one of the few states that allows landlords to immediately terminate a lease for nonpayment or violation, and a state statute specifically forbids any city or county from implementing rent control. While Georgia law does tend to heavily favor landlords, tenants do have some significant protections under state statutes that all involved parties should be aware of.
What Laws Cover Landlord-Tenant Relationships in Georgia?
Georgia rental law is covered almost entirely by Georgia Code Ann. 44-7. For disputes that escalate to a court hearing, the Georgia court system publishes a benchbook for landlords and tenants that helps to collect and summarize the various laws both parties need to be aware of.
Security Deposit Rules
There is no statute regarding the maximum that can be charged for a security deposit. However, OCGA 44-7-34 specifies that landlords must return any security deposits within 30 days of the end of the lease.
This statute also allows landlords to deduct from the security deposit for a number of different reasons. Landlords may deduct from the deposit to cover missed rent payments, fees for late rent payments and pets, damages caused by the tenant, repair work that the tenant ordered and then billed to the premises, and nonpayment of the utilities. If the tenant abandons the lease, however, the landlord does have a legal obligation to mitigate the damages.
According to OCGA 44-7-31 to 44-7-36, landlords are not required to place security deposits in an interest-bearing bank account or pay any kind of interest to tenants. However, if the landlord and their family collectively own and directly manage more than 10 rental units, or own less than ten units that are managed by a third party in return for a fee, there are some special rules about the handling of the deposit. In these circumstances, the deposits of all tenants must be placed in an escrow account and the tenants must be informed of the location of this account.
Pet deposits, application fees and other fees, including non-refundable fees, are allowed under OCGA 44-7-30 with no specific maximums. However, no portion of the security deposit can be designated as non-refundable for any reason. Landlords who wish to retain a portion of the deposit for cleaning up after pets will instead need to charge a separate non-refundable pet deposit.
Landlords who collectively own and directly manage more than ten rental units with their family need to provide new tenants with a complete list of known damages to the premises prior to receiving their security deposit. The tenant also has a right to inspect the premises after receiving this list to confirm that it is accurate. Landlords who own less than ten rental units are exempt from this requirement UNLESS their rental units are managed by a third party for a fee.
Landlords are also required to provide an itemized list of damages and charges within three days after the tenant quits the premises. After the former tenant receives the list, they have five days in which to inspect the premises to verify that the list is accurate. As with the requirement for the initial list of damages, however, this only applies to landlords who own and manage ten or more units within their family, or those with ten or less units who have them managed by a third party in return for payment. These requirements can be seen in OCGA 44-7-36. There is no statute regarding keeping records of deposit withholdings outside of this requirement.
If landlords violate any terms of handling the security deposit, they are subject to forfeiture of the deposit. If it is determined that the landlord intentionally violated these regulations, the tenant may sue for up to three times the deposit amount and may recover attorney fees and court costs, under OCGA 44-7-35.
Lease, Rent and Fee Rules
Georgia has no statutes on default rental due dates, advance notice of increases in rent, grae periods, prepaid rent or late fees. There are also no state statutes permitting tenants to perform needed repairs on their own and deduct rent, or to withhold rent for failure to provide needed utilities.
The state has enacted a law (OCGA 44-7-19) that prevents localities from regulating the amount of rent that can be charged for a rental property. This means that no place in the state has any form of rent control, although federally funded subsidy programs such as Section 8 are still available.
Landlords are allowed to collect returned check fees in Georgia. They may ask either $30 or 5% of the check amount, whichever is greater. They may also recoup any fees charged to them by the bank.
Georgia landlords are also allowed to recover court and attorney fees in the event of a dispute. If the tenant abandons the lease, there is language in OCGA 44-7-34 that requires the landlord to make a reasonable attempt to mitigate damages, but that does not include having to search for a new tenant while the lease is still active. Landlords are also allowed to handle and remove the personal property of a tenant if they first obtain a formal writ of possession from the court.
There are some special rules regarding the termination of the lease of an active duty member of the military that landlords must be aware of. If the service member is ordered to leave the area on duty for a period of 90 days or more, there is a special process that the landlord must follow to end the lease, outlined in OCGA 44-7-22. Service members need to provide written notice of the assignment to the landlord, after which time they may terminate the lease immediately and only be held liable for the following 30-day period and any damages to the unit that they may have caused.
Notice and Entry Rules
Termination of tenancy generally requires 60 days notice from the landlord or 30 days notice from the tenant, with the exception of week-to-week rentals, where there is no statute.
There are no statutes for most conditions of entry by the landlord, with the exception of entry for showings and non-emergency maintenance, for which 24 hours notice is required. Landlords are expressly allowed to enter in emergencies without notice under OCGA 44-7-14.
There are no statutes on lease terminations for a violation of terms. Landlords are allowed to immediately terminate a lease for non-payment, but must give the tenant a period of seven days to pay the owed rent and fees to restore the lease to good standing.
Lockouts and utility shutoffs are not allowed in Georgia. Landlords can be fined up to $500 for doing either of these things.
Required Disclosures and Notes
Landlords are required to disclose the name and address of the property owner and any authorized property managers to the tenant at the beginning of each lease. In accordance with federal law, they must also disclose the use of lead-based paint and provide tenants with an informational pamphlet on its potential dangers.
OCGA 44-7-15 requires the tenant to continue honoring the lease if the property is destroyed by fire.
If the property has flooded three times or more within the past five years, the landlord is required to disclose this to the applicant before the lease is signed under OCGA 44-7-20.
Georgia law presently has no statutes on protection for domestic violence victims or on retaliation by landlords.
Small Claims Court
OCGA 15-10-2 sets the upper small claims court limit at $15,000. Eviction cases are heard in small claims court.