Tenants and landlords differ greatly in terms of their roles in a housing community. But they share one key commonality: they both have rights and responsibilities. Knowing these rights and responsibilities is especially important for tenants who are considering signing a lease or moving into a new property. But the recent COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder that landlords also need to remain abreast of tenant rights. Below are seven things you need to know about Georgia tenant rights.
1) Georgia landlords must follow most federal anti-discrimination laws
“The Georgia Fair Housing Act was passed to ensure all Georgians can compete for housing within their economic means on a fair and equitable basis. It prohibits discrimination in housing and housing-related activities because of disability, race, sex, color, national origin, religion, or familial status.” – Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA)
Landlords in Georgia are able to turn down prospective tenants for reasons such as unfavorable references, a checkered behavioral history, a poor credit history, or failure to pay rent on time in the past. While there are many reasons why landlords can legally reject applicants, landlords are forbidden from discriminating against prospective tenants on the basis of their religion, race, sex, or presence of a disability.
2) Landlords are often able to enter tenants’ units
While a landlord’s ability to enter a tenant’s unit will depend on the language in the lease, the majority of leases in Georgia state that landlords are able to access tenant units with notice. However, it is important to review the lease language closely, as the lease may specify certain times that the landlord is unable to access a property.
3) Georgia landlords are responsible for property repairs
Landlords are responsible for keeping a property in good condition for the tenant. In fact, it is against Georgia law for a landlord to force a tenant to pay for repairs unless the tenant or one of the tenant’s guests caused the damage.
4) A landlord may be able to sell a tenant’s property if rent is unpaid
“If the tenant owes rent and is moving out, then the landlord can put a lien on the tenant’s personal property by filing for “distress for rent” in court. If the tenant does not pay rent before moving out, the landlord will be able to sell the tenant’s property for payment of the rent owed.” – Reggie Lys, Avail
Some tenants are surprised to learn their personal property might be at risk if they fail to pay rent before leaving a property. For this to occur, two conditions must be met: First, there must be proof that the tenant left and failed to follow through on their responsibility to pay rent. And second, the landlord must file for “distress for rent.” If a trial occurs and the landlord is victorious, he or she may be given some of the tenant’s personal property.
5) Landlords are required to disclose existing property damage to tenants
Georgia law requires landlords to provide a list of any pre-existing damage to a tenant’s rental unit. Landlords must also inform tenants of any flooding that has affected the property more than three times in the past five years. Finally, landlords must also disclose information regarding lead-based paint on the property in accordance with federal disclosure guidelines.
6) A landlord can legally evict a tenant for multiple reasons
In Georgia, there are a variety of circumstances under which a landlord can legally evict a tenant. Some of the most common reasons for eviction include the following:
- Failure to pay rent or other required fees
- A specific lease violation, such as unapproved subletting or housing animals when pets are forbidden
- Extensive property damage
7) Landlord-tenant disputes must be handled within the court system
“In Georgia, there is not a government agency with power to intervene in a landlord-tenant dispute or force one party to behave a particular way. Landlords or tenants who cannot resolve a dispute need to use the courts, either directly or through a lawyer, to enforce their legal rights.” – Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook
If you are a new tenant or landlord who has just moved to the state of Georgia, you might be accustomed to having any landlord-tenant disputes addressed by a specific government organization or agency. But in Georgia, tenants and landlords must turn to the court system if they are unable to resolve a dispute.
What should you do if you are involved with a Georgia tenant rights violation?
If you feel that your tenant rights have been violated or if you are a landlord facing accusations from a tenant, the best step to take is to reach out to a landlord-tenant lawyer. A trusted legal representative will listen to your experience and advise you about the best step to take next. With a dedicated attorney in your corner, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that a skilled lawyer will fight for your rights.