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Georgia Landlord-Tenant Laws Resource Guide

final-georgia-headerBelow is a summary of rental laws in Georgia. This article is researched and cited according to the Official State Statute in Georgia, however, it is very important that every landlord and property manager review their state and local laws and speak with an attorney in their state for further guidance and clarification.  

The Official State Statutes and other reputable municipal sources were used to research this information.  Resource links to the Georgia Official State Statute on Landlord-Tenant Laws and the Official Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook have been included for your convenience.

In Georgia, there is not a governmental agency that has the power to intervene in a dispute between a landlord and tenant to force one or the other party to behave in any particular manner. A landlord or tenant who cannot resolve a dispute on their own would need to use the courts, either directly or through a lawyer, to enforce their legal rights.

Rental laws are amended and updated by state legislation, you are advised to speak with a local housing authority and licensed attorney that specializes in landlord-tenant laws in Georgia for a detailed interpretation of the rental laws that affect you. This article is an educational reference and does not constitute legal advice.

Official State Resources for Landlord-Tenant Laws in Georgia


Laws About Security Deposits

Max Security Deposit Amount: No State Law. There is no limit to the amount of a security deposit a landlord may charge.

Additional Move-In Fees: Pet deposits, application fees and other fees, including non-refundable fees, are allowed in Georgia. 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. (OCGA§ 44-7-30)

Security Deposit Refund Timeline: 30 days after vacancy to the last known address via first class mail. (OCGA§ 44-7-34)

Move-In Inspection: Before issuing a security deposit, the tenant must receive a detailed list of any existing damage to the property. The tenant also has the right to inspect the premises to determine the accuracy of the list of damages. The move-in inspection paperwork must be signed by both tenant and landlord. (OCGA§ 44-7-33.a)

Move-Out Inspection: A landlord must conduct a move-out inspection within 3 days after a tenant moves out to create a list of property damage and an estimated cost to repair the damage, that the landlord can use the security deposit.  The tenant then has 5 days after moving out to inspect the property and agree to the landlord’s list of damages. (OCGA§ 44-7-33.b)

Legal Use of Security Deposit Funds: Security deposit can be used to repair damaged cause during tenancy beyond normal wear and tear; nonpayment of rent or of fees for late payment, for abandonment of the premises, for nonpayment of utility charges, for repair work or cleaning contracted for by the tenant with third parties, for unpaid pet fees, or for actual damages caused by the tenant’s breach, provided the landlord attempts to mitigate the actual damages.(OCGA§ 44-7-34)

Failure to Comply with Security Deposit Laws: A landlord forfeits his right to retain any security deposit amount, if a landlord fails to keep security deposit funds in an escrow account or if he fails to provide written statements for the move-in or move-out condition. A tenant will be entitled to 3x the amount of withheld security deposit funds, if the landlord lied about damages and kept money that actually belonged to the renter. (OCGA§ 44-7-35)

Additional GA Security Deposit Laws:  Security deposit funds are to be kept in an escrow account and shall be held in trust by the landlord for the tenant. The landlord shall inform the tenant in writing of the location and account number of the escrow account that hold his security deposit. (OCGA§ 44-7-31)

Exemptions: If a landlord owns 10 or fewer properties, different laws apply to him regarding escrow accounts, move-in/move-out inspection paperwork, and failure to comply, unless the properties are under property management. (OCGA§ 44-7-36)


Laws About Rent

Increases

  • Georgia law does not limit the amount by which the rent can increase. (Handbook, p. 43)
  • 60-day notice required from the landlord to increase rent on an at-will tenant (one without an official lease).

Maximum charge: No county or municipal corporation may enact, maintain, or enforce any ordinance to regulate the amount of rent to be charged for privately owned, single-family or multiple-unit residential rental property. (OCGA§ 44-7-19)

Grace Period : No Law

Late Fees : Landlord can collect late fees as specified by the lease agreement.

Insufficient Funds: Georgia law (OCGA § 13-6-15) permits a landlord, who received a check which was refused by the bank due to a lack of funds, to seek damages if the tenant does not pay the amount of the check and fees to the landlord within ten days of the landlord’s written demand for payment. The landlord can charge a returned check fee, which may not exceed $30 or 5% of the amount of the check, whichever is greater. The landlord can also charge for the amount of any fees charged by the bank due to the check being dishonored. (Handbook, p.43)


Laws About the Lease

Lease Terms: If no lease term is given, the tenancy is at will.

Lease Termination: 

  • At will tenancy: 60 days notice for lease termination issued by the from landlord.
  • 30-days notice for lease termination initiated by the tenant. (OCGA§ 44-7-7)

Early Termination Fees: Landlords are allowed to require a renter pay a fee for terminating a lease agreement early and continue to pay rent during the notice period. (Handbook, p. 25)

Lease Termination by a Service Member: Landlords are required to allow service members to terminate a lease agreement early with a 30-days notice if the conditions are met according to OCGA§ 44-7-22.

Renewals: The landlord can refuse to renew a lease for any reason but cannot discriminate based on race, color, disability, religion, nationality, or because children are in the household. (Handbook, p. 24)

Evictions: Landlords may move forward with an eviction if a renter does not meet the conditions outlined in the lease agreement, including failure to pay rent.  A landlord may present a Notice to Pay Rent or Quit, in which the renter is given the opportunity to pay the past due amount in full, including late fees and court costs. If offered the landlord must accept the rent, but it can only stop an eviction once a year.

Self-help evictions, including changing the locks, are illegal in Georgia. A renter may file a lawsuit against the landlord for any damages you suffer due to his wrongful conduct. (Handbook, p. 55)

Changes to the Property: The tenant has no rights beyond the use of the land and tenements rented to him and such privileges as are necessary for the enjoyment of his use. He may not cut or destroy growing trees, remove permanent fixtures, or otherwise injure the property. (OCGA§ 44-7-11)

Overnight Visitors & Guests: Generally, a landlord generally cannot limit visitors as long as they do not disturb other residents or violate the lease. However, a landlord can set limits on overnight guests, as that may be seen as an unauthorized tenant. Tenants are advised to not receive mail for any person not listed on the lease agreement. (Handbook, p. 10)

Occupancy Limits: Georgia has no state occupancy laws however many cities have their own local laws that limit the number of people allowed in each bedroom.

A landlord may create a reasonable occupancy policy and state the policy in the lease agreement. A reasonable occupancy limit is typically 2 people per bedroom. (Handbook, p. 11)


Laws About Landlord Responsibilities

Notice for Entry: Unless the lease states otherwise, the landlord can only enter the property if entry is necessary to cure a dangerous condition, prevent damage to the unit, or respond to an emergency on the premises. There is no legal requirement that a landlord notify a tenant prior to entering the unit in such emergency circumstances.

Implied Warranty of Habitability: Once a property is leased, the tenant has the right to use, occupy and enjoy the premises in accordance with the lease or rental agreement.

The landlord’s responsibility is not only to deliver the rental property to the tenant in compliance with the housing codes but also to maintain compliance with the housing codes throughout the lease term. (Handbook, p. 46)

Georgia law recognizes the following conditions as threatening health and safety:

  • Defects which increase the hazard of fire, accidents, or other calamities
  • Lack of adequate ventilation, light or sanitary facilities
  • Disrepair and structural defects
  • Uncleanliness

Required Amenities: Landlords are required to provide working smoke detectors. Tenants are required to keep them in good working order.  (Handbook, p. 9)

Heat/Water Requirements: It is illegal for a landlord to knowingly and willfully to turn off utilities to a tenant until after the final disposition of any dispossessory proceeding by the landlord against such tenant. (OCGA§ 44-7-14.1)

Utility Billing By the Landlord: The amount billed includes water used by the tenants and water used in the complex’s common areas. The amount the landlord collects from each tenant must not exceed the amount the landlord is charged for water and wastewater service for the building and the common areas, plus the landlord’s fee. The tenant is to be told how the water bill will be calculated before signing the lease. Under Georgia law (OCGA §12-5-180.1)


Laws About Property Maintenance and Repairs

  • The landlord is responsible for maintaining the building structure and keeping operational systems such as the electric, heating, and plumbing.
  • The landlord is also responsible for repairing any appliances including heating and air conditioning included in the rental unit.
  • A landlord is further responsible for meeting all local ordinances and minimum safety standards.
  • The tenant should not be charged for repairs caused by ordinary wear and tear.
  • Before a landlord can be required to make a repair, he must be given notice of the defect. The tenant should give the landlord written dated notice of the problem needing repair.  (Handbook, p. 47)
  • If the tenant was aware of a defect at the time the lease was signed, the tenant waived the right to require the landlord to make the repair. (Handbook, p. 47)

Rent Withholding: The tenant cannot stop paying rent even if the landlord fails to make repairs. (Handbook, p. 47)

Repair and Deduct: Georgia courts have held that when a landlord fails to respond to repair requests after a reasonable time, the tenant can have the required repair performed by a competent repair person at a reasonable cost and deduct the cost from future rent. (Handbook, p. 48)


Legal Disclosure Requirements

Ownership and Agents: Tenants are to be provided with the names and addresses of the property owner and the person authorized to manage the premises. (OCGA§ 44-7-3).

Flooding: Owners are required to notify possible tenants, prior to the signing of the lease, if the property has a propensity for flooding. If flooding has damaged any portion of the rented living space three times during the preceding five-year period, the owner must give the tenant written notice that the apartment is prone to flooding before the lease is signed. (OCGA § 44-7-20)

Murders/Death : Owners and their agents are required to respond truthfully if they are asked direct questions about the property’s past. The law directs owners, or an owner’s agent, in a real estate transaction to answer truthfully to the best of their knowledge if asked about the property’s prior occupancy by a diseased person or whether the property was the site of a homicide, felony, suicide, or a death by accidental or natural causes.(OCGA§ 44-1-16)

Mold: There is currently no federal law covering a landlord’s responsibilities when it comes to mold. Also, Georgia doesn’t have any laws that specifically address a landlord’s duties or liability when it comes to mold prevention and remediation. 

Lead Paint: Federal Law requires all Georgia landlords to include a “Lead Warning Statement” in their lease for buildings built before 1978 about lead-based paint and/or potential hazards.  Additionally, landlords are required to provide renters with an EPA-approved information pamphlet about lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards.(Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act, Title X)


Resources

Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook

EPA Approved Lead Disclosure Information on Lead-Based Paint/Hazards – SAMPLE

Section 8 Housing Guide


Laws governing rental properties, landlords and tenants are primarily found in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) Title 44. Article 7.

Access to the entire Georgia Code is provided by LexisNexis from the Georgia General Assembly’s website. Go to the Official Code of Georgia (O.C.G.A.).

HINT: Once you enter the O.C.G.A. through LexisNexis, click on the TOC link at the top left corner of the page to the view the Table of Contents to easily locate a Title, Article, or Chapter within the O.C.G.A.

**Please note that the O.C.G.A. is provided by the State of Georgia from the Georgia General Assembly’s website, so you will be leaving the Department’s website if you click on the link to LexisNexis or from the General Assembly’s website. Please note that changes to O.C.G.A. that are brought about by bills passed during the most recent legislative session may not yet be posted.

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