When you have an unscrupulous landlord, they may try to convince you that they hold the upper hand in the relationship. They may violate your privacy, make excuses for not carrying out necessary repairs, and even try to constructively evict you by changing locks or shutting off your utilities. However, the reality is that as a Georgia tenant, you have certain basic rights that are specified in state code.
Five Basic Tenant Rights in Georgia
1. The Right to Fair Housing
All residents of Georgia are entitled to equal treatment in all matters related to renting a home or apartment. The state Fair Housing Law and the Federal Fair Housing Act prohibit discrimination on the basis of:
- Physical or mental disability
- National origin
- Familial status
This means that a landlord cannot charge you a higher rent or have different lease terms simply because of your sex, religion, color, etc. They also cannot post discriminatory statements on the premises (e.g. no children allowed unless the property is designated senior housing) or deny you an apartment because they feel you do not “fit” the demographic of the neighborhood.
2. The Right to Safe and Habitable Accommodations
Residential landlords in Georgia have a duty to keep the units in their buildings in a safe and habitable condition. This includes keeping all utilities in good working order, carrying out structural repairs when necessary, and exercising ordinary care to keep the units and access safe for tenants.
If your landlord fails or refuses to carry out necessary repairs after a reasonable notice period, you have the right to file a lawsuit against them for any resulting damages. You can also have a licensed and qualified professional perform the necessary repairs at a reasonable cost and deduct the amount from your rent, provided that you:
- Notify your landlord in writing that you plan to take this route
- Keep copies of repair receipts and a statement from the repair professional detailing the original problem and the work performed
- Subtract the repair costs from the next month’s rent by sending copies of the receipts and any rent balance due
3. The Right to Get Your Security Deposit Back
While Georgia does not set a limit on how much a landlord may collect as a security deposit, they cannot make unfair deductions or refuse to return it. Once you pay the deposit, they must provide you with written notice that states where it is being held, and after you move out, they can only deduct for:
- Physical damages to the property caused by you, members of your household (e.g. children), pets, or guests
- Unpaid rent or late fees
- Unpaid utilities that you were responsible for
- Any damages caused by breaking your lease
They cannot retain your security deposit to cover normal wear and tear, and must return it (minus any legal deductions) within one month after you move out.
4. The Right to Full Disclosure About the Property
Georgia law entitles tenants to certain disclosures from their landlords. In addition to the names and contact details of the property owner(s) and the property manager, landlords must disclose the following:
- Whether the property is prone to flooding
- Any known defects in the unit
- Any known lead-based paint hazards (for buildings constructed before 1978)
If asked, the landlord or their agent must provide you with true and accurate information about any murders, suicides, or other deaths that may have occurred on the premises as well as any previous tenants with diseases.
5. The Right to Terminate Your Lease if You Are Active Duty Military
Georgia law protects service members by permitting them to terminate their leases early if they receive active duty military orders that require them to move over 35 miles away. They are only required to provide written notice to the landlord at least 30 days before they need the lease to end.
Call Us If You Have Questions About Your Tenant Rights
At the Law Office of Judith Delus, P.A., we are dedicated to protecting tenant rights throughout Atlanta and the surrounding area, and will advocate for you in matters such as eviction defense, wrongful use or retention of your security deposit, and habitability issues. To schedule a consultation, call 678-601-5580 today.