Eviction Law in Georgia
What Is an Eviction?
An eviction is the forceful exiting of tenants following an issued notice by the property owner or landlord. Evictions usually come as a result of failure to pay rent, or from violations of the lease agreement. However, evicting a problem tenant can be a long and costly experience as landlord-tenant laws favor tenants. Getting a better understanding of Georgia eviction law can help.
Even though eviction notices happen as a result of serious problems with the tenant, not all eviction notices lead to an actual eviction. Oftentimes, eviction notices serve as a final warning for the tenant. If the tenant can then pay rent, or begin to follow the lease agreement, they may avoid eviction.
When Can Landlords Send a Termination Notice?
The Tenant Doesn’t Pay Rent
If a delinquent Georgia tenant frequently pays rent late, or has not paid rent at all, there is a good reason for eviction. Some states do have a grace period for an occasional late payment. However, if a tenant makes a habit of always paying late, that grace period does not apply and the property owner can provide an eviction notice.
According to World Population Review, Georgia does not have any specific statutes regarding grace periods and late fees. However, Georgia law states that all contracts for rent bear interest from the time rent is due. As well, any late fees must be “reasonable” and specified in the lease.
You should always provide your tenant with “late rent” notices and keep a copy for yourself in your files. That way, if the eviction case goes to court, you have paper evidence of their failure to pay rent on time.
The Tenant Violates the Terms or Conditions of the Lease Agreement
Lease agreements are legal contracts. This means if your tenant violates the contract in any way, it can be grounds for eviction. For example, if your lease agreement says that your tenant cannot have an additional person living in the unit, and they violate this rule, you can begin the eviction notice process.
The lease agreement is also legally binding for the landlord. This means that any Georgia landlord must also follow the rules laid out in the agreement, such as making repairs, and performing maintenance written into the lease.
The Tenant Damages the Property
Tenants are going to cause damage to the property; it’s unavoidable. Wear and tear when living in a home is normal. Still, there’s a difference between scratches on the wall or broken blinds, and intentional destruction of property.
If it’s clear that your tenant is doing severe damage to your property, such as breaking through walls or smashing windows, this may be cause for eviction. However, if your tenant makes repairs themselves, and doesn’t make any major changes to the property, this might not be grounds for eviction.
The Tenant Uses the Property for Illegal Purposes
If your tenant is using your Georgia property for illegal purposes, such as selling drugs or weapons, this can be clear grounds for eviction. Reporting the issue might also bring criminal charges against the tenant.
However, you should prepare to provide evidence that the tenant is using the property for illegal purposes. If law enforcement came to the property to address these issues at any time, these reports can prove helpful.
How to Evict a Tenant in Georgia
If you want to evict a tenant for any reason, then you need to understand the eviction process. Here’s how it works.
Step 1. Check Your Local Laws
Eviction laws are different in each state and can also vary at the city level. Therefore, it’s important to familiarize yourself with local laws before taking any action. Always ensure you have a legally valid reason for an eviction before giving notice. A qualified Georgia attorney can help review your case to determine if you do.
According to Georgia Legal Aid, a Georgia landlord cannot force a tenant to make or pay for repairs. However, this rule does not apply if the tenant, family member or guest caused the damage. As well, if you have a written lease, your landlord cannot raise your rent or ask you to leave without giving 60 days’ notice. If you have a written lease, the landlord cannot raise the rent during the term of the lease, unless the lease says otherwise. Furthermore, your landlord must return your security deposit within 30 days after you move out. This rule only applies if you did not damage the property, and do not have a balance due on rent.
Step 2. Give a Formal Notice of Eviction
If you have tried to reason with your tenants and they continue to violate the terms of your lease, you should then provide them with a formal notice of eviction. Your eviction notice will serve as an ultimatum or final warning. It should explain how your tenant is in violation, as well as what they can do to stop the eviction process.
The eviction notice should include a deadline for the tenant to either pay rent or move out, and the amount the tenant owes. If you’re unsure of how to create an eviction notice, you can use online templates or seek legal advice.
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs provides a helpful Landlord-Tenant Guide to the State’s Rental Laws. Unlike most states, Georgia does not require a written eviction notice. A landlord can start the eviction process with a verbal demand to leave. If the tenant refuses, the landlord can then file a dispossessory affidavit under oath with the court. If the landlord wins the case, the court will issue a writ of possession that requires the tenant to move after 7 days. The writ also requires the tenant to pay any rent owed. In Georgia, the landlord can seize the tenant’s property to get payment if the tenant seeks to remove their property from the premises without paying.
Step 3. File the Eviction with the Court
You must file the eviction notice with the court within a few days. The court will then set a hearing date and will notify the tenant of the hearing by a summons. The County Magistrate Court has jurisdiction to hear landlord-tenant disputes in Georgia, including dispossessory (eviction) proceedings. If the Court decides in favor of the landlord, the Court will issue a writ of possession to evict the tenant from the property.
Step 4. Contact an Experienced Georgia Eviction Attorney and Prepare for the Hearing
You should find an attorney as soon as possible to help you prepare for the hearing. Then, when you go to the hearing, you should bring the following documents:
- Lease agreements
- Records of payments
- Bounced checks
- Record of communication between you and the tenant
- Record of the eviction notice
- Proof that the tenant received the notice
Step 5. Evict the Tenant
If you’ve won the hearing, your tenant will have time to move out of your property. The amount of time allowed is dependent on the state, but it typically ranges from 48 hours to one week. If the tenant refuses to leave, you can contact Georgia law enforcement to forcibly remove them from the property.
Step 6. Collect Past-Due Rent Payments
If your tenant owes you rent money, you may still have a long fight ahead to collect past-due payments. You can try to collect these payments through a number of methods:
- Hiring a private debt collector
- Garnishing their tax refunds
- Garnishing their wages
- Taking the case to small claims court
Work with an Experienced Eviction Attorney in Georgia
The tenant will likely try to argue that you did not follow proper procedures for providing an eviction notice. Having a qualified Georgia attorney on your side can take the pressure off your back, and help ensure a victory in court. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Georgia state lines.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!