Security deposits are intended to compensate Atlanta landlords if a tenant disappears without paying the last month’s rent or damages the apartment during their tenancy. The deposit is supposed to be returned to the tenant after they move out, minus any deductions for damages. It sounds straightforward, but security deposit disputes are one of the main reasons why Atlanta landlords and tenants end up in court.
Below is an overview of three common security deposit disputes and how Georgia Code Annotated §§44-7-30 to 37, which is the state security deposit law, applies to each one.
The Landlord Takes Too Long to Return the Itemized Deposit
Landlords have one month to return the tenant’s security deposit, minus any itemized deductions. This itemization should be in writing and indicate how the deposit has been used. Approved deductions include:
- Costs of cleaning and repair (does not include normal wear and tear)
- Unpaid rent that is legally owed
- Unpaid utility bills
- Unpaid pet fees
If the building consists of ten units or more, Georgia law requires the landlord to inspect the premises within three days after you move out and compile a list of damages and their estimated value. They must then send you a copy of the list within five days after your tenancy ends or lose the right to keep the security deposit, even if the apartment was left in severe disrepair.
The Landlord Deducts for Normal Wear and Tear
Landlords cannot use your deposit to cover the costs of correcting normal wear and tear, which is defined as the naturally declining condition of the apartment after extended use. For example, if poor cleaning practices left permanent stains and ground-in dirt on the carpet, your landlord would be justified in deducting cleaning or replacement costs. However, if the carpet was clean but had minor fraying due to years of foot traffic, you cannot be charged for cleaning it.
The “wear and tear” vs. “actual damage” dispute is a common one, and Atlanta landlords who illegally withhold a tenant’s security deposit do so at their own risk. If a court finds that they acted inappropriately, they may have to pay the tenant up to three times the amount they withheld.
The Tenant Was Not Allowed to Do a Walk-Through Inspection
Atlanta landlords have up to three days after you terminate your tenancy to inspect the premises. They must make a list of any damages and the approximate repair costs and provide you with a copy, which must also include the information that you have to agree or dissent to their claims.
You have five days after moving out to inspect the property and agree or disagree with the listed damages. Signing the list means that you agree. If you don’t agree, you must sign a statement of dissent and indicate in writing which items you disagree with. If the landlord simply takes the deductions from your security deposit and does not make the premises available for this follow-up inspection, you can escalate the matter to court.
Contact a Georgia Tenants’ Rights Attorney
Landlords are supposed to use a security deposit for its intended purpose, but this is not always the case. At Atlanta Family & Immigration Law, we understand that Georgia tenants often face an uphill battle against landlords. As a Georgia tenants’ rights law firm, we will stand up for you if your landlord takes too long to return your deposit, unfairly reduces the amount by charging you for ordinary wear and tear, or prevents you from inspecting the unit to confirm their claims. For more information, please call 678.601.5580 or contact us.