Georgia Rental Laws

Written on March 7, 2014 by , updated on March 13, 2018

Flag of GeorgiaThis article summarizes some key Georgia Landlord-Tenant laws applicable to residential rental units.

We’ve used the Official State Statutes and other online sources cited below to research this information, and it should be a good starting point in learning about the law.

With that said, our summary is not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for qualified legal advice. Laws and statutes are always subject to change, and may even vary from county to county or city to city.

You are responsible for performing your own research and complying with all laws applicable to your unique situation.

If you have legal questions or concerns, we recommend consulting with the appropriate government agencies and/or a qualified lawyer in your area. Your local or state bar association may have a referral service that can help you find a lawyer with experience in landlord-tenant law.

Official Rules, Regulations & Guides

Security Deposit:

  • Security Deposit Maximum: No Statute
  • Deadline for Returning Security Deposit: 30 days. If the landlord is withholding or claiming part of the deposit due to damages, the landlord must provide a list of the damages and the amount withheld, within three days. (O.C.G.A §§ 44-7-33 and O.C.G.A. § 44-7-34)
  • Allowable Deductions: The landlord is allowed to deduct from the security deposit: (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-34)
  • Security Deposit Interest: The landlord does not have to place the deposit in an interest-bearing account nor does the landlord have to pay interest to the tenant. (handbook)
  • Separate Security Deposit Bank Account: The landlord is required to place the security deposit in an escrow account in a banking institution regulated by federal financial laws. The landlord must notify the tenant in writing of the location of the escrow account. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-31) This is not applicable to owners and family members who collectively own ten or fewer rental units, unless those units are managed by a third party for a fee. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-36)
  • Nonrefundable Fees: Allowed, but they must not be part of the security deposit. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-30)
  • Application Fees: Allowed (see handbook, pg.11). Use Cozy to avoid application fees.
  • Pet Deposits and Additional Fees: Allowed (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-30)
  • Require Written/Signed Move-In Checklist: If the owner and/or family members own ten or fewer rental units, the owner shall give the tenant a comprehensive list of any existing damage to the rental unit before the security deposit is collected. The tenant has the right to inspect the rental unit to confirm the accuracy of the list prior to moving in. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-33). These requirements are not applicable to owners and family members who collectively own ten or fewer rental units, unless those units are managed by a third party for a fee. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-36)
  • Require Itemized List of Move-Out Damages and Charges: Within three business days after the tenant’s move out date, the landlord shall inspect the rental unit and compile a comprehensive list of any damages, along with the estimated dollar value of such damage. This list is the basis for any withholding of the security deposit. The tenant then has the right to inspect the rental unit within five business days after the move-out date in order to ascertain the accuracy of the list. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-33) This is not applicable to owners and family members who collectively own ten or fewer rental units, unless those units are managed by a third party for a fee. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-36)
  • Record Keeping of Deposit Withholdings: No Statute
  • Failure to Comply: The landlord forfeits any right to withhold a deposit if the money was not originally deposited in an escrow account, or if landlord did not provide move-in/move-out inspection lists. Any landlord who intentionally and wrongfully withholds a deposit may be liable for three times the amount withheld plus attorney’s fees. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-35)

Lease, Rent & Fees:

  • When Rent Is Due: No Statute
  • Rent Increase Notice: No Statute
  • Rent Grace Period: No Statute
  • Late Fees: No Statute
  • Prepaid Rent: No Statute
  • No Limit on Rent Amount: No county or municipal corporation may enact or enforce any ordinance that regulates how much rent can be charged for privately owned, single-family or multiple-unit residential rental properties. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-19)
  • Returned Check Fees: Yes, but the fee is not to exceed $30 or 5 percent of the check amount, whichever is greater, plus the amount of any fees charged to the check holder’s bank or financial institution. (O.C.G.A. § 13-6-15) To prevent bounced checks, consider using Cozy.
  • Tenant Allowed to Withhold Rent for Failure to Provide Essential Services (Water, Heat, etc.): No Statute
  • Tenant Allowed to Repair and Deduct Rent: No Statute
  • Landlord Allowed to Recover Court and Attorney Fees: Yes (see handbook)
  • Landlord Must Make a Reasonable Attempt to Mitigate Damages Caused by Lessee: Yes, but there is no statute that requires the Landlord to look for a new tenant. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-34)
  • Abandonment of Personal Property: The landlord can remove the tenants’ abandoned personal property with a formal writ of possession (i.e., a court order). (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-55)
  • Termination of a Service Member:
    • Specific Rules: A landlord must follow a specific process for terminating the lease of an active duty member of the regular or reserve component of the United States armed forces, the United States Coast Guard, the Georgia National Guard, or the Georgia Air National Guard on ordered federal duty for a period of 90 days or longer. See O.C.G.A. § 44-7-22 for specific details.
    • Limited Liability: Any liability of the Service Member for rent, as well as the cost of repairing damages to the rental unit, under the lease may not exceed 30 days’ rent after written notice and proof of the assignment are given to the landlord. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-37)

Notices & Entry:

  • Notice to Terminate a Tenancy at Will (a Lease with No End Date): 60 days’ notice if the landlord is giving notice; 30 days’ if the tenant is giving notice. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-7)
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Fixed End Date in Lease: No Statute. Typically no notice is needed as the lease simply expires.
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Month-to-Month Lease:  60 days’ notice if the landlord is giving notice; 30 days’ notice if the tenant is giving notice. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-7)
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Week-to-Week Lease: No Statute
  • Notice of Date/Time of Move-Out Inspection: No Statute
  • Notice of Termination of All Leases for Nonpayment: Immediate lease termination. Landlord can also file for eviction immediately (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-50), however the tenant has seven days to pay to avoid eviction. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-52)
  • Termination for Lease Violation: No Statute
  • Required Notice before Entry: No Statute; 24 hours is recommended (see handbook, pg. 13)
  • Entry Allowed with Notice for Maintenance and Repairs (nonemergency): Yes, but the landlord must provide prior notice; 24 hours is recommended. (see handbook, p. 13)
  • Entry Allowed with Notice for Showings: Yes, but the landlord must provide prior notice – 24 hours is recommended (see handbook, p. 13)
  • Emergency Entry Allowed without Notice: Yes (handbook, pg. 13)
  • Entry Allowed During Tenant’s Extended Absence: No Statute
  • Notice to Tenants for Pesticide Use: No Statute
  • Lockouts Allowed: No (see handbook, pg. 55)
  • Utility Shut-offs Allowed: No. Landlord is not allowed to discontinue heat, electricity, or water service. These actions are punishable by a fine not to exceed $500. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-14.1) 

Disclosures & Miscellaneous Notes:

  • Special Tenant Rights & Restrictions: A tenant may not cut or destroy growing trees, remove permanent fixtures, or otherwise injure the property without prior permission. A tenant may use dead or fallen timber for firewood and pasturing cattle. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-11)
  • Landlord Responsibility & Liability:
    • The landlord must keep the rental unit in repair. The landlord is liable for all substantial improvements made to the rental unit with their consent. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-13)
    • Having fully parted with possession and the right of possession, the landlord is not responsible to third parties damages resulting from the tenant’s negligent or illegal use of the rental unit. The landlord is responsible for damages caused by defective construction or the failure to keep the rental unit in repair. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-14)
  • Name and Addresses: At or before the commencement of a tenancy, and 30 days after any change, the landlord must provide the names and addresses of:
    • The owner of the rental unit or a person authorized to act for and on behalf of that person; and
    • The person authorized to manage the premises to the tenant. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-3)
  • Destruction of Dwelling: The destruction of a dwelling by fire or the loss of possession by any casualty not caused by the landlord does not release the tenant from the obligation to pay rent. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-15)
  • Flooding Disclosure: If any portion of the living space covered by the lease has flooded three times in the last five years, the landlord must disclose this to the applicant before signing a lease. (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-20)
  • Lead Disclosure: Landlords must disclose all known lead paint hazards. Landlords must also provide tenants, as an attachment to a written lease, with an information pamphlet on lead-based paint hazards.
  • Domestic Violence Situations: No Statute
  • Retaliation: No Statute

Court & Legal Related:

Business Licenses:

  • Business License Required: No state-wide statute, but local cities and counties may have regulations and requirements. Check with your local governing authority.

Court & legal related:

State agencies & regulatory bodies:

Housing Authorities

Realtor, and landlord and tenant associations

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527 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Sun

    Hi, I hope you can help me in the situation I’m in.
    My apartment has trash pick up service.
    And this is the policy
    Trash Collection Guide

    Step 1: Trash Preparation
    Bag & Tie- place in the collection container provided
    No loose trash
    Double bag cat litter
    No bags over 25 lbs
    No oversized items

    Step 2: Your Container
    Containter is provided for trash bags
    Place container out between 6 PM and 8 PM by front door.
    Bring your container back inside by 9 AM
    COLLECTION STARTS PROMPTLY AT 8 PM

    There is a fine of $75 for any violation

    We are not supposed to let the trash bag out itself without a container.
    But I did couple days ago and got a fine for $75.
    I have asked them for waiver since this was first time. Which they did refused to do.
    then I was thinking “what kind of HARM it could do by letting the trash bag itself out without the container.? if the bag is completely sealed and not leaking?”

    I just think this policy isn’t fair and I think what I did isn’t wrong or violate anything but the unfair policy they have.

    The other day, they opened our package thinking it was sent to the office. It was coffee.
    and we actually had our package stollen or missing couple months ago before this incident. WHICH WAS THE SAME COFFEE.

    I would like to report this and also about the unfair policy.

    What can I do?

    Sorry for the long story.
    and THank you! :)

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sun,

      I don’t know what to say about your stolen coffee. Stolen mail is a federal offense, but so very hard to patrol.

      As for the trash issue, the reason why they say everything must be in containers is because small animals (raccoons, squirrels, mice, rats) will often rip through the bags at night and pull the contents all around the neighborhood. It creates a spike in wildlife if they know that they can find food in front of your unit, and it also spreads disease. It’s for sanitation and safety reasons, and its a common practice all over the country.

  • Steve Buird

    I have a sink in the master bathroom that is missing the pop up stopper for the drain. I did not notice it when we did the walk through last month. I have asked the landlord to replace it. She sent someone over and put a rubber plug in the drain instead. I told her I did not want that plug because it leaves the drain open for things to fall into it, plus the original parts to the vanity sink include the pop up stopper, like the one in the other bathroom. Also I don’t want to have her take this out of my deposit when I leave. Do I have any recourse to have her fix it properly?

  • Teef

    Hello!
    Can I terminate the lease if the landlord failed to inform me about the lead paint in the house BEFORE I signed the contract? There was NOTHING about lead paint written on the lease.

    It was not until a week after I moved in that the landlord presented a lead paint liability form to me and my roommates for us to sign. It basically said that there was no official documentation of lead paint being present in the house, but there is a definite high possibility.

    I just find it strange that the landlord would only tell us about the lead paint AFTER we moved in. The house has been rented out for the past few years, and I would assume that it would not have taken this long to discover the lead paint.

    I am just wondering if it is legal to not mention anything about lead paint in the lease, and if I can terminate the lease because there was no mention of lead paint in the house which can be a health hazard?

    Thank you!

  • Sarah Bielski

    Property management company has failed to resolve squirrels in ceiling and wall issue for more than six months. I now have mice in walls. And kitchen. I informed company a week ago about mice. I found their access point to home and kitchen (a large crack between dishwasher and cabinetry through which you can see lots of feces and a hole down to below the house). Evasive reposes so far about fixing the crack but nothing about the mouse problem. I hear them all the way up the wall! They that are not sure what to do about squirrels. This is a lie because when exterminator came the first time for them he said squirrels were now the pervue of fisheries and wildlife, which would be really expensive. Nothing happened for a long time. I kept hearing squirrels in ceiling. Then I heard them in wall again (I now realize these were mice). They sent someone who cleans up fire and water damage. No luck. Now, nearly a year later. Here we are. I know GA law says a tenant must give the landlord/rental company a chance to make things right (O know because of the roach problem when I moved in), but is there a time limit on this? Do I have a case? Can I sue for damages? Because I can’t afford to move. I would like the company to pay to move me into another rental that is safe. I don’t want to pay first and last months rent and pet fee again somewhere. Can I ask then to this? Can I call the health board? In my area there are no lawyers who do landlord/tenant disputes. Any help would be appreciated. Sorry so long.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sarah,

      A year seems like way too long to resolve a squirrel/mice issue. With that said, it sounds like you might only get some attention if you make a big enough deal about it. I know you’ve been calling, but maybe it’s time to write a demand letter, or call the county and report a rodent issue.

      Or, perhaps you could make an appt with the local manager and get some one-on-one attention. But if you start making threats, be sure that you’re in a fixed-term lease that they can’t easily terminate.

      Have you tried searching on http://www.avvo.com for lawyers?

  • Tyler

    I have a Tenant that has agree to moved. I have a Voicemail saying he will be out on a certain date. Now that date has passed and he has failed to pay rent for 4 weeks. Must I file an eviction noticed or can I call local police department and have him sit out for trespassing, since I have vocal conformation of a set date to be gone?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Tyler,

      You must file an eviction notice. If you call the cops, they will likely ignore you since you have not gone through the courts. Next time someone doesn’t pay rent, GA lets the landlord terminate the lease immediately, and file for eviction. There is no need to wait 4 weeks.

      Keep in mind, I’m NOT a lawyer and this is not legal advice. I’m just an experienced landlord trying to help.

      Heres a helpful eviction guide: http://www.landlordology.com/tenant-eviction/

  • Kelly

    Hi,

    I rented a room out to this young man on month to month terms. I was clear that I needed him to give me a minimum of 2 weeks notice if he was going to move. After being in the home for a week he said he was moving and he wanted money back from the rent he had paid. I explained that I rented the room on monthly terms not weekly. I also asked what was tge reason for him too want and move. He stated that his ride to work was complaining of having to drive over to pick him up. So it was not due to anything wrong with room or myself.

    I guess my question is do I have to give back money to him. I mean he never gave me 2 weeks notice and it wasn’t for anything wrong with room ir home that he moved.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Kelly

      In my opinion, you absolutely do NOT have to give the money back. In fact, the section on notices in the article above links to the statute that says tenants need to give 30 days notice. Further, notice should be given in respect to the date rent is due. So for you. “2 weeks” notice is a minimum of 14 days before the rent due date. Does that make sense?

      The way I see it, if he stayed there for 1 week and then said he was leaving, he actually gave you 3 weeks notice. If I were you, I would keep the rent for the whole month (until the next rent due date)

      Keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer but rather an experienced landlord. This is not legal advice.

  • G Switzer

    I had a year’s lease on a home. It was set to expire on November 30, 2014. I initially paid a security deposit equal to rent and first and last months rent. I had to move for a new job. I was out of the house on October 1, 2014. I left on October 1st because the landlord rented the house and the new tenant signed a lease for October 1st. I was never given the option to pay for October (November was already paid with my last month’s rent). Now, the landlord is refusing to return my security deposit or my last month’s rent. She stated that she is giving my last month’s rent to her realtor as commission. My contention is that she rented the house with the October 1 date. She had me turn the keys over several days before October 1. Now she is saying I abandoned the home, so she owes me nothing. Can she do this?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi G

      In Georgia, a landlord must make a reasonable attempt to mitigate damages (see the links above). If she had a new signed lease for Oct 1, then she should give you back your last month’s rent in full.

      She would be allowed to use all or some of the deposit for damages beyond normal wear and tear, but if you didn’t damage anything, you should get the full security deposit back. A deposit can only be used for actual financial or material damages. Just because you abandoned the lease doesn’t mean she can automatically keep your deposit. There has to be and itemized list of damages for her to account for the withholdings.

      Check out the first section above on Deposits. Do some research into the linked statutes, and then take her to court!!! If I were in your shoes, I would file a small claims action for my deposit and last month’s rent (plus legal fees).

      I’m not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice, but to me, this seems like the landlord isn’t playing by the rules.

  • Shante Johnson

    My property manager called me and said to Stop Depositing rent into his account bevause he is no longer the property manager. I have yet to meet the new property manager or get anything in writing. Am I to get this new information in writing/a new lease before making a rent payment to an unknown source.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Shante

      Yes, typically the owner will give you new instructions. Don’t pay the old PM because he might have been fired. If you can reach out to the owner, do so.

      You shouldn’t need to sign a new lease because your old lease will still be valid even though the PM changes. If the new PM tells you to sign a new lease, I suggest only doing so if it is identical to the old lease, or if you are okay with the changes.

  • victor

    hi there

    i am in GA , Atlanta metro area

    i have a property ( single family home detached)
    i rented it out per september 1

    renter paid at move in 1st month rent plus 1st part security deposit
    ( i agreed with renter security deposit would be paid in 3 parts in first 3 months with rent )

    per october 1 he did not pay ( lease states if rent not paid by 1st its deemed late)
    per october 4 still no pay (150 late fee is now in effect) ( after 7 days no pay lease states extra penalty of 350 )
    renter cant be reached

    i leave messages (SMS) voice msgs , and email msgs

    finally renter calls on 8th says he is tired of being chased for rent !
    Says he want to “relinquish” property back
    says he will leave

    on the 9th he writes an email to me
    after he requests my email address per SMS

    in the email he writes :
    ” I, [tenant], state the said property of [my rental property] is vacant. ”

    I inspect the next day , home is totally empty literally nothing left,
    all electricity switched off at breaker board,
    all keys to entry doors left on kitchen counter top

    on the 10th i re-key locks on all access doors
    did not hear from tenant

    on the 13th i decide to write an email to him
    sating i will file suit in smalls claims court for
    month of rent lost between his rent and next renter
    plus expenses

    on the 14th

    Tenant emails and calls me
    stating he never left
    he wants back in the home

    What are my obligations ?
    do i have to let him in

    he is still behind in rent , security deposit and late fees
    ( together over 3000 $)

    What if he goes back in by breaking into my home ?

    Is that illegal or legal ?

    if he has a right to move back in ,… is he now obligated to pay me the late rent and sec dep and late fees first ?

    I now have real reasons , to assume he will
    not pay at all if i let him back in first

    And he will wait for eviction

    but probably cause damage (maybe even hidden damage…) he could be that sly !

    What to do ?

    • victor

      i like to add this for the forum
      to take in consideration

      the tenant moved out on the 9th

      and per the 10th he disconnected
      water service
      and he electric service

      i have proof of both

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Victor,

      I’m not a lawyer, so please don’t consider this legal advice. If I were in your shoes, I would not let that tenant back into the property. You have clear proof that he abandoned it, and that you terminated the lease.

      Letting him back in would be like letting a lion into a butcher shop. He’ll make a mess, and you’ll never get him out.

      If he wants so badly to get back into the property, force him to take you to court. If he breaks into the property, call the police immediately.

      It also wouldn’t hurt to talk to a lawyer, and get actual legal advice here. Good luck man!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Debra,

      It just means a landlord can’t retaliate against a tenant for exercising his/her legal right to report something to a govt official. Any eviction attempt 60 days after the report will be considered retaliatory. It’s a common law in many states and it should be enforceable. However, you should talk with a lawyer to get an actual legal opinion, which I am not.

  • Moving gal

    I’d like to replace the carpet myself ( I’m the tenant ) because lowes has a great deal and the carpet sample they have is the exact same as what I’m trying to replace. As a renter, am I allowed to do that on my own before my move out inspection? If I were the owner, I would be stoked especial since the carpet was stained and old when we moved in and hadn’t been pressure cleaned due to delays with the prior tenant vacating. I have heard my property management company is notorious for keeping as much of the deposit that they “legally” can, overcharging for repairs they deem as non wear and tear. If I’m not allowed, what would be a fair deposit charge for a carpet replacement in a 9×9 bedroom, considering it was clearly old when we moved in 2 yeas ago and has depreciated in value since. I’m live in Alpharetta , though on the cusp of Johns Creek if that helps. Last question….most of the light bulbs were not replaced when we moved in. I took pictures during the move in inspection because I was so frustrated with the lack of effort they put in preparing the property for us, considering we were moving cross country arriving the day of the move in. Do I need to still buy replacement bulbs? The move in inspection states they will give s a credit for bulbs which they never did, plus it says they will pay for professional cleaners which they also never did.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi there,

      Wow, that’s so generous of you! However, I don’t think you should replace the carpets at your own expense. Why spend the money when you don’t know for sure if they will charge you?

      Generally speaking, a tenant is only responsible for returning the property to the condition is was at move-in, minus normal wear and tear. If the carpets were old and damaged when you moved-in, why would you offer to replace them. A landlord has to take in the expected life of the carpet when charging a tenant for it. Even if the carpet was new when you moved in, the landlord wouldn’t be able to charge you full price to replace it, because they got 2 years of normal life out of it.

      Here’s a helpful recording that answers your question: http://www.landlordology.com/ask-lucas/010-carpet-damage/

      As the the light bulbs, they shouldn’t charge you for them, especially if you have proof of the move-in condition.

      However, light bulbs are fairly cheap, and it might be less of a battle just to replace them.

      If I were in your shoes, I would pay for a professional carpet cleaning, and show them pictures of the carpet at move-in condition. Sears does a great job at carpet cleaning.

      With that said, none of this will matter to a landlord who is determined to nickel and dime the tenants. The best you can do is take him/her to small claims court and sue them to get your deposit back if it was wrongfully withheld.

      Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

  • G S

    You responded to my earlier email, thank you.

    UPDATE: I received my pet deposit and security deposit back from my landlord, but she is still holding my lasts month’s rent. She said she is giving it to the realtor as a finders fee. I need to know if this is worth taking to small claims court.

    As an FYI: I had two months left on my lease. I told my landlord I was not going to renew my lease, which was up at the end of November 2014, at the end of August 2014. I paid September’s rent. She, in turn, found a tenant and asked me to vacate the property so tenant could move in by October 1st. I had already paid last months rent at initial move in. Now she says I abandoned the property and she has the right to keep my last month’s rent so she can pay the realtor who found the new tenant a fee.

    I was never given the option of paying out my lease, and, in fact, moved out a few days early (before October 1) so the new tenant could get moved in. I gave the keys to the landlord’s handy man, as requested, after he did the walkthrough.

    I really don’t see how that counts as abandoning the property, as a new lease was signed with a new tenant before my lease was even officially up.

    Is it worth taking this to small claims court for $1200?

    Any help would be appreciated.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi GS,

      Please know that I’m not a lawyer nor do I give legal advice. However, if I were in your shoes, I would absolutely take her to court over the last month’s rent if I had documentation of her request to move out on Oct 1.

      Because the landlord found a new tenant, she must mitigate the damages incurred by you (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-34).

      I think the bottom line is that she is forced to pay the realtor a finder’s fee, but doesn’t want it to come out of her pocket, so she’s suckering you into paying it. That’s not right. You did everything she asked.

      Be sure you check your lease to make sure that it doesn’t say that you forfeit your last month’s rent, or incur a fine, etc.

  • Deann

    I have an adult son who lives in my home and has started doing drugs in my house. How can I evict him? I called the police on him and they won’t do anything.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Deann,

      Unless there is a landlord-tenant relationship, I’m not really sure if you can go through the formal eviction process. The courts probably won’t even entertain the case. Because this seems like a domestic dispute, I honestly don’t think landlord-tenant law applies here.

      However, I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t know for sure. Please don’t take this as legal advice. If you think your son will sue you for kicking him out, you should probably talk to a licensed attorney first.

  • Bill McCutcheon

    I have an unfortunate question. A couple of days ago in the middle of the night, my Tenant found a wet spot in the Floor at the end of the Foyer. Instead of calling me, she called her boyfriend. 9 hours later I was notified by text message that the water heater was leaking. By the time I left work and arrived at the house, 1/2 of the living room was completely soaking wet. I turned off the water at the tank and called my Plumber to come out and replace the Water Heater. Needless to say, I was not happy with my tenant for not calling me immediately and definately for not turning the water off before 9 hours of leakage. I spent 8 hours sucking 50 Gallons of water out of the Living Room Carpet with my heavy duty vaccume made just for this type of problem. At the end of the evening there was no more water coming from the carpet, I placed several fans out to help in the drying process. I used an Antibacterial Spray for carpets and departed for the evening. Water heater Replaced.

    This morning the Tenant complained that there is a musty smell in the living room. I am having my wife go back down to the house in the morning and see if she can verify.

    So here is my question: The Tenant discovered the problem at midnight, she did not notify me of the problem (If she had I would have told her to shut the water valve and minimized the problem), I would have also traveled to the house to figure out what the problem was. As stated earlier she failed to do so, causing the problem to be Severe instead of minor. My thought is that I am not replacing the entire Living Room/Dining Room Carpet because of her failure to notify me in a timely manner. Can I bill her for the cost of the ruined carpet if I wind up having to replace it?

    Thanks, Bill

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Bill,

      I’m sorry to hear about that.

      In my (non-legal) opinion, this would fall under negligence and failure to use common sense.

      The tenant should have called you immediately. So yes, if I were you, I would ask the tenant to pay for the damages, and take her to small claims if she didn’t. If she has renter’s insurance, it might cover this damage.

      Further, whenever I’ve had water leaks like this, I can never fully get the carpet dry because the padding underneath is usually a spongy material, which just holds in water. When the flood remediation pros take care of a job like this, they usually pull the carpet up, and either:
      1. Remove/replace the padding underneath, or
      2. place 6-8 heavy duty fans under the carpet, to air dry the padding.

      Even a heavy duty water vacuum won’t be able to remove the water in the padding, by sucking it through the carpet. The musty smell is probably coming from a saturated pad. However, whenever I’ve ad my carpets cleaned, there is usually a musty smell for 2-3 days. But a cleaning only ads water to the surface carpet, not the padding.

      Anyway, if you had padding under the carpet, I wouldn’t be surprised if that is still saturated, and the source of the smell.

      I hope that helps you. Please keep in mind that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

      • Bill McCutcheon

        Thanks. I thik I dodged a serious bullet here thanks to the wife and her commerical carpet cleaner. I went by the property Saturday morning and both the carpet and the Padding were dry. That machine of hers had some really good suction. The padding had it’s spring back and we could not fins a wet spot anywhere. Actually the carpet looks better than it did before she allowed the flood. There were no signs of mold or mildew anywhere and no bad smell. Going to keep am eye on it, but it seems to be ok now. I tactfully read her the riot act and explained that if something like this ever happens again I will be taking actions under the lease to protect my investment.

  • Pearl Beatty

    trying to find answers or advice. our apartment was recently caught in the middle of senseless shooters and the apartment tenants that live above us. there are bullet holes everywhere in our sons room, furniture, windows, walls, livingroom, toys….its insane!!!! needless to say we want to move asap!!!! we are curious if the apartment management is liable for any moving costs or our property that’s been damaged. do we have the right to break our lease? this is far from a common event in our neighborhood but we will not have our children in a home with bullet holes everywhere and potentially dangerous neighbors above us!!!! what can we do???

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Pearl,

      Wow, I’m so sorry that happened to you.

      Personally, I don’t see how the PM or landlord could be responsible. The folks shooting the guns would be responsible for your damage. You could also possibly file an insurance claim if you have renter’s insurance.

      I think this would be sufficient reason to break your lease, but you’ll have to get landlord approval to do so. If anything, the landlord should terminate the lease of the tenants above you.

      I also don’t mean to minimize the situation, but if you think it was a one time thing, do you think in a week, you’ll feel differently?

      If your landlord doesn’t let you out of your lease, and you want to leave, then you’ll need to talk to a lawyer to get help. The last thing you need is for the landlord to sue you for missing rent if you abandon the place.

  • KAYLEY BANNISTER

    Hi,

    I have a question from the tenant’s perspective. We signed a lease with our landlord for a house in Georgia, and it specifically states in the lease that if we do month to month, either the tenant or the landlord has to give 15 days notice of termination. I texted my landlord about doing month to month after the lease ended, he was impossible to get in touch with our last month of the lease, and he agreed to month to month but that we had to give 30 days notice of termination. On October 30th, he sent a text saying we had to be out by the end of November and to consider this our 30 days notice. Is this even legal? He is a lawyer, so I feel like he would know his stuff, but I thought Georgia law requires 60 days notice for month to month, regardless of what the lease says? Please advise.

    Thanks!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Kayley,

      You’re in luck. Regardless of what your lease says, O.C.G.A. § 44-7-7 statute says “Sixty days’ notice from the landlord or 30 days’ notice from the tenant is necessary to terminate a tenancy at will. ”

      If you’re currently in a month-to-month lease (or a lease with no fixed end date), then the landlord would have to give you 60 days notice. Basic math says that would have to vacate by Dec 31 (60 days from Oct 30). Though I’m not a lawyer, I’ve never heard of a lease clause taking precedence over statutes.

      I think it’s just more convenient for him to have you move out at the end of Nov, and he’s trying to pull a fast one on you. That, or he doesn’t know what the statute says.

      I suggest showing him the law, and if he says “my lease supersedes it”, then you should consult a different attorney – because I highly doubt he’s above the law.

      Please keep in mind, I’m NOT a lawyer and this is not legal advice. I’m just an experienced landlord trying to help :)

  • Quisha

    I mailed the new lease to my tenant effective in May ( no increase). She’s been promising to send the lease but still hasn’t. Her rent pmts have been late three times since the last lease ended. The new lease included a letter with a month to month rate, which I haven’t enforced. Every first of the month, she introduces a new repair that tends to overshadow the unsigned lease and rent pmt. A repairman recently asked that she remove dogs before he enters the home. Pets were not allowed in old or new lease.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Quisha,

      It sounds like a troublesome tenant. Why are you even offering a renewal? If that were my tenant, I would void the offer, and give her notice to move out. I have a policy that I don’t rent to people who pay rent late more than once. It’s served me well.

      I even take it a step further and require automated online rent payments. I’m using Cozy, which is easy to setup and my tenants love it. I think allowing online rent payments actually attracts a higher quality tenant.

  • Shawn

    OK….. My problem is this! I signed a 2 year agreement on a house for lease to purchase, and my house needed repairs. So, my rent is close to $1000 a month, the landlord took me to court for a $100 late fee for eviction, which in fact I had paid the rent for that month and disputed the amount. I paid what the courts ordered. Now I with held the rent to go back to counter claim because my toilet didn’t flush , you would have to fill it up with water from the tub, and it was mold present throughout the kitchen underneath the flooring which is swelling the wood to the back door which want close now, and also if it wasnt for the garage my house would be broken into because the door wouldnt close, kitchen floors that had just been replaced before I moved in she said. So the judge order the eviction, but only because I been to court the first time. Which in fact I only been late once. I am confused about rather to file an appeal and how long do I have to move….. Forgot to mention I offered to pay her and will I get my deposit of over 1800 because of this? Please help because I have a small child and I have no where to move yet!

  • Angie

    I`m staying in a duplex in midtown and signed a years lease. This lease was signed in the summer. Now it has gotten cold and I`m discovering i have no heat in this duplex but the neighbor next door does and the landlord has 10+ units on this same street that has heat. Is this illegal because its days that I’m freezing. I have a small space heater that I have to move from room to room. Also upon further investigation, talking to other tenants my rent is the highest and without heat!!! Please help me…thanks

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Angie,

      You’d have to check with your local county to see what the laws are regarding heat. Further, your landlord must be given an opportunity to fix it. Have you notified him in writing? What is his response?

  • Mak

    I have a condo in Atlanta that is sometimes rented out for a few days at a time. We are having problems with our HOA saying we are in violation of the short term rental bylaw. Is there a Georgia law that says short term rentals are illegal and does the HOA have a right to enforce this bylaw legally?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Mak,

      An HOA always has the right to govern the association. If the community bylaws prohibit short-term rentals, then the owners of that association would have to abide by those bylaws. To change the bylaws, the association would have to vote on the change. Until then, it’s best to not test the association. They have the means to fine you for being in violation, and even put a lien on your property if the fees are not paid.

      Sorry that’s not the answer you were hoping for.

  • Sha

    Hi! We recently had to relocate from Atlanta to another state for my husband’s job. My husband called our landlord to let her know the situation and to offer verbal notification that we would be terminating the lease early. Our landlord said not to worry about giving written notification and that she would work with us because we had always been great tenants. Needless to say, thy has not happened. The lease requires that we pay 2 months rent and a $1,200 “administration fee” for early termination. She initially said she would not charge us the admin fee as would also not charge the 2 months rent if she was able to rent the property. After my husband left, I had 2 small children and was packing and cleaning the home alone. She came to the propert daily complaining about different issues each time. She complained the home was not broom swept and ready for her to show each day. This created a very hostile environment and I ended up leaving even earlier than originally scheduled. (We said we would leave by October 10th and I left on the 8th.) she has now sent us “estimates” for “damages” she claims to the residence. A couple questions:
    1. Would we be responsible for payment of rent after October 10th? I wouldn’t think so because if we had moved in on the 10th, we would have paid a pro rated amount for 10-31.
    2. Can she charge is for things she claimed we damaged that she is not repairing or replacing?
    3. She claims she does not have to apply our security deposit toward any of the fees she is charging us. Is this true? I thought that was the whole reason to pay a security deposit.
    4. She has a very unrealistic view of normal wear and tear. She believes everything should be EXACTLY the we it was when we moved in, even though it is an old home and we lived there for 2 1/2 years. For example, the painted plate below the knobs on the cooktop is chipping. I only ever cleaned with a sponge and normal kitchen cleaners. She is trying to charge us full replacement cost for the entire range. If we sustantially disagree on “normal wear and tear,” what are the options?
    I have been reviewing your very helpful website, along with GA law and the landlord/tenant handbook. I appreciate any insight you can provide.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sha,

      Here is my non-legal opinion on your questions:
      1. Yes, you would be responsible for rent up until the day that she has a new tenant that is paying rent. The early termination clause usually comes with a “notice” requirement (usually 30-60 days) where you typically have to pay rent for that time, plus the fee.

      2. If you caused damaged beyond normal wear and tear, then you should reimburse the landlord for the damage. Not all repairs are able to be completed prior to the refund so sometimes estimates must be used. It would be immoral for the landlord to charge you for it, and then not make the repair.

      3. If she’s not using the deposit, then she must give it back. She can’t just keep it for no reason, and then also expect you to pay for the damages. However, she might be applying the deposit towards the unpaid rent you might be responsible for.

      4. If my landlord tried to charge me for a full range when only the top was chipping, then I would take her to small claims court over it. Further, even if you did damage the range beyond repair, she wouldn’t be able to charge you for the cost of a new one, because she still was able to get some normal life out of the appliance before replacing it. If it has an expected lifespan of 10 years, and it was brand new when you moved in, and “if” you destroyed it after 2 years, she could only charge you for 8/10ths of the cost of a new stove. Make sense?

      If this landlord continues to be unreasonable, I’m afraid you’re going to have to consult a lawyer and take her to small claims to her some of your money back – if she is wrongfully withholding it. However, since you are breaking the lease, there’s a strong chance you will owe her more than what your deposit covers – I just don’t know how much.

      Please keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • Pat

    My tenant wants to move out of our rental property six month before her lease is up because she dislikes one of the neighbors. We have no terms for early termination in the lease. She has already signed a lease for another property. What are our options?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Pat,

      The tenant has no “right” to terminate the lease. That’s the whole point of signing a fixed-term contract.

      However, you can’t really force someone to live in your unit. You can only hold them responsible for the rent that they agreed to pay.

      O.C.G.A. § 44-7-34 says that the landlord must make a reasonable attempt to mitigate damages caused by leasee, but there is no statute that requires the Landlord to look for a new tenant. (my summarization).

      However, the primary way a landlord can mitigate damages is by finding a new tenant.

      If I were in your shoes, I would tell my tenant (as gently as you can) “I’ll start looking for a new tenant. As soon as the new tenant’s lease starts, I’ll release you from your lease. Until then, you have to continue to make rent payments like normal. If you fail to pay rent, I will sue you for the damages, and file an eviction for non-payment. After that, you’ll have an eviction record and a debt on your credit that will last for years. In summary, I’ll try my best to find a replacement tenant, but don’t stop paying rent. If you’d like to help me find a replacement, I’d appreciate it.

      In my opinion, that’s the best route to go. However, please know that I’m NOT a lawyer, but rather an experienced landlord. Please don’t take this as legal advice.

  • Chris

    My Fiance is in a lease for 1 year without the right to terminate early for any reason. Upon move-in to the home and on the move-in inspection Mold was annotated in the storage shed where she keeps all her extra clothes. We have also discovered Mold in the master bathroom. She has emails saved where she notified the landlord and he has not responded to her emails at all in reference to the Mold issues. She wants to terminate her lease based on this because she has a brand new grand-daughter living here as well and we are worried about what this Mold can do to affect her family. Is there anything we can do to get her out of this lease about 6 months early since the Landlord is not addressing the Mold issues?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Chris,

      I’m not a mold specialist, but it’s important to note that not all mold is dangerous, and most of it can be cleaned up with bleach.

      With that said, you can always buy a mold testing kit, or hire a professional to test it. They will be able to tell you what species it is, and if it’s dangerous. They will also give you a physical report you can use as evidence.

      Before you try to break your lease for habitability issues, you should really make sure that the mold does in fact breach the warranty of habitability.

      Just my two cents… keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer, and this isn’t legal advice. It would be wise to talk to a licensed Landlord-tenant lawyer before taking any actions.

  • Angie

    A tenant recently paid an early termination fee equal to 2 months rent in order to break the lease. My property manager took out a “management fee” of 10% for those months. She believed that since I got paid “rent”, then she gets paid her fee. However, our contract does not stipulate the payment of a commission on an early termination fee. Is it right for her to take these funds?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Angie,

      If I were the landlord, I would argue this as well. What does the property management contract say? Is her fee 10% of all revenue that the property produces (which would include application fees, late fees, etc) or is it 10% of the monthly rent amount.

      If it’s only 10% of the rent, then she shouldn’t take a cut of the early termination fee. Just my non-legal two cents…. (i’m not a lawyer).

      I think the key is to check your contract, and hold her to it.

  • Scott

    Great info here…thank you!

    My question is this…are non-working windows considered a fire hazard in Georgia? None of the windows in our top floor are working (they will not open…not sure why) and the owner is not willing to pay to repair them.

    Our lease states that if the defects create “unsafe living conditions”, then they are the owner’s responsibility to repair. Do windows that won’t open (virtually all of them are in bedrooms) constitute unsafe living conditions?

    Thanks!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Scott,

      I don’t know if functioning windows is required for habitability (my guess would be that it is required, but I don’t know the exact statute).

      However, I do know that standard Fire/building code (in every state that I’ve been in) usually requires that all bedrooms have 2 forms of egress. This is usually accomplished by a door, and a functional window.

      If your landlord refuses to fix at least one window in each bedroom, I suggest contacting your local housing authority or code enforcement office, and reporting the issue. They might inspect the property, and/or fine the landlord until the issue is resolved.

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