In Georgia, the landlord-tenant relationship is established either orally, in written rental agreements, or when it’s simply implied. After the establishment of the relationship, both parties – the landlords and tenants – obtain certain rights and responsibilities under Georgia landlord tenant law.
Both landlords and tenants must abide by these requirements for the entire duration of the rental agreement under Georgia law. Dealing with bounced check fees or an eviction process can be difficult, but it's key to follow the letter of the law.
In this blog, we’ll provide you with a basic overview of the key elements under the Georgia landlord-tenant law.
Required Landlord Disclosures in Georgia
Georgia law requires that landlords provide their tenants with certain disclosures before they agree to rent the property. Most landlords will easily provide this list to tenants, if they do not the tenant can pursue legal action. This list of legal information for disclosure under the Georgia landlord-tenant laws include:
- Lead-based paint. This is a federal requirement for houses built before 1978. Landlords must let their renters know of concentrations of lead paint used.
- Authorized authorities. Property owners have the responsibility of notifying their Georgia tenants about the names and addresses of the landlord or manager.
- Flooding risk. You must let your tenant know of any flooding that's occurred in the property three or four times in the past 5 years.
- Move-in checklist. This isn't exactly a disclosure, but it's mandatory to provide your tenant with a move-in inspection checklist in Georgia. You must have your tenant sign and agree to the condition of the property and its amenities if you charge a deposit.
Please note that a Georgia landlord must provide all these disclosures and specific informations prior to the tenant moving in or signing the rental agreement. If you don’t, not only would this cause a landlord tenant dispute, but your tenant may have a right to terminate their lease agreement without further accountability. This would cause additional cost to the landlord.
Tenants’ Rights & Responsibilities in Georgia
Tenants in Georgia have the right to:
- Be treated fairly in accordance with the Fair Housing Act.
- A judicial eviction process as outlined in the Georgia landlord-tenant Act.
- Be notified about any changes to the terms of the rental agreement.
- Be notified prior to any landlord entry.
- A proper written notice after the landlord receives their security deposit.
- A walk-through inspection prior to moving out.
- Live in peace and quiet as per the Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment.
- Live in a safe and sanitary home.
- Have repairs done within a reasonable amount of time.
When it comes to Georgia tenant responsibilities, these include:
- Paying the month's rent on time as per the agreement, and paying any fees if it’s late. Bounced check fees must be paid in-full and as soon as possible under Georgia law.
- Notifying the landlord when maintenance issues come up.
- Notifying the landlord of any necessary repairs.
- Notifying the landlord prior to moving out.
- Abiding by all rules and policies of the lease agreement.
- Caring for the unit.
- Paying the required security deposit and other move-in fees prior to moving in.
- Notifying the landlord when away for an extended period of time.
- Keeping the noise levels down.
A problematic tenant can disrupt an entire neighbourhood. So, to give the Georgia department of Community Affairs less work, make sure to keep the community you invest in vibrant and happy with the right tenant.
Landlord Responsibilities & Rights
The following are some basic rights you have as a landlord in Georgia. You have the right to:
- Receive rent payments on time.
- Be notified when your tenant is looking to vacate the premises.
- Enter rented premises to carry out important responsibilities like a rental inspection.
- Evict a tenant for failing to comply with the terms of the lease agreement.
- Deduct from a tenant’s security deposit for a lease violation.
- Make changes to the terms of the rental agreement.
As for the responsibilities to ensure a positive relationship between a landlord and a tenant, they are as follows:
- Follow the due eviction process as required by law.
- Respond to maintenance issues in a timely manner.
- Ensure the tenant lives in peace and quiet.
- Treat the tenant with respect and not discriminate against them on the basis of a protected class.
- Notify the tenant about any changes to the agreement.
- Ensure the property complies with all Georgia health, safety, and building codes.
- Serve proper notice prior to entering a tenant’s rented unit.
- Abide by all terms of the rental agreement.
An Overview of the Landlord-Tenant Laws in Georgia
1. Changing Locks
Georgia tenants are free to change their locks unless the rental agreements state otherwise. However, as a landlord, you cannot unilaterally change the locks, as “lockouts” are considered to be a form of self-help eviction. This is prohibited under the law.
2. Housing Discrimination
All forms of housing discrimination are prohibited in the state of Georgia. The Fair Housing Act requires landlords to treat tenants respectfully and fairly.
While some states have additional protections for classes not covered under the federal Fair Housing Act, Georgia doesn’t. As such, the only protected characteristics in Georgia are race, color, sex, disability, religion, national origin and familial status.
3. Rent Increases
There are no rent control laws under the Georgia landlord-tenant law or specific information regarding rent increase. As such, Georgia landlords are free to charge whatever rent amount they want.
When it comes to rental increases, no law bars you from increasing by whatever amount you wish. However, charging too high of a price can negatively effect the relationships between Georgia landlords and tenants.
4. Lease Termination
Renters in Georgia have a right to terminate their lease for certain reasons. They include:
- If the unit is no longer habitable due to a repair or maintenance issue.
- If they can prove that they have been harassed by the landlord.
- When starting active military duty.
- If they become a domestic violence victim.
- If there is an early lease termination clause in the agreement.
Other than these reasons, a tenant who breaks their lease early will still be liable to pay rent for the remainder of the term. Unlike some other states, landlords in Georgia aren’t required to “mitigate damages” after a tenant leaves. Any renter who refuses to pay rent in this circumstance, is avoiding their responsibilities and the landlord has the right to get a lawyer involved.
A dispute is almost always avoidable, always try to come to an agreement with your tenant before beginging the search for legal action.
5. Security Deposits
Georgia also has a security deposit law in place. These security deposit laws are contained in the statewide landlord-tenant act. A security deposit is a key factor in a successful rental property.
The following are a couple of rules that Georgia landlords must abide by when it comes to a tenant’s security deposit.
- Store the security deposit by posting a surety bond.
- Only make appropriate deductions from the security deposit for certain justified reasons, such as excessive property damage.
- Return the security deposit within 30 days after a tenant leaves, minus any deductions.
- Let the tenant know if it's placed in an escrow account. If their money is in an escrow account, be sure to follow the law of your region on who gets the interest accumulated while the deposit is in the escrow account.
6. Tenant Evictions
As already mentioned, Georgia landlords have a right to evict their tenants. That said, the reason for doing so and the process to follow must abide by the law. If the reason for the eviction is determined to be discriminatory or punitive, you may find yourself in trouble with the law. When considering eviction, it is important for a landlord to use this as a last resort.
Try to resolve any landlord tenant dispute before seeking legal resourses for eviction. If you proceed and go to magistrate court for criminal hearings, it can become complicated.
Georgia Landlord-Tenant Laws in a Nutshell
There's a myriad of rules to follow with regard to landlord-tenant laws in Georgia. As landlords and tenants, there are many rules to be aware of and abide by, otherwise, you may get into legal trouble.
Contact Vineyard Property Management if you need help managing your rental property! We're a team of professional Georgia property managers who can handle all aspects of property management on your behalf. We know the Georgia landlord-tenant act and will ensure your investment is legally compliant.
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for legal resources from a licensed attorney. Laws change frequently, and this post might not be updated at the time you read it. If you have a specific question about landlord-tenant laws in Georgia please get in touch with a qualified attorney.