Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook

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Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook:
                    Questions Frequently Asked By Landlords and Tenants

                                        Tenth Edition

                                       February 2011



This booklet was first prepared and published in November of 1985. This tenth edition was made

possible by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs through a contract with the Georgia

Legal Services Program.



                            Georgia Legal Services Program, Inc.
                                    All Rights Reserved
                                      February 2011
                              Reproduction is Not Prohibited
                                                      TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction ................................................................................................................................................... 3
Landlord Tenant Basics ................................................................................................................................ 4
Leases and Rental Agreements ................................................................................................................... 14
Lease Termination and Renewal ................................................................................................................. 23
Utility Issues ............................................................................................................................................... 29
Security Deposits ........................................................................................................................................ 35
Rent Payments and Other Charges.............................................................................................................. 44
Repairs and Maintenance ............................................................................................................................ 48
Evictions and The Dispossessory Process .................................................................................................. 58
Military Service Members As Tenants ....................................................................................................... 74
Foreclosure and Tenants ............................................................................................................................. 78
Renting With Roommates ........................................................................................................................... 81
Rental Of Manufactured Housing and Mobile Homes ............................................................................... 84
Lead Paint and Environmental Issues ......................................................................................................... 85
Questions Asked About Fair Housing ........................................................................................................ 90
Additional Resources .................................................................................................................................. 98




                                                                                2
                                            INTRODUCTION
          This Handbook is designed to answer common residential landlord-tenant questions. The information in

this Handbook does not apply to commercial or business leases. The facts determine the proper solution to each

problem. Because the facts of each case are different, the answers contained in this Handbook are given in general

terms and may not apply to your specific problem. While this publication can be helpful to both landlords and

tenants, it should not be a substitute for professional legal advice. This Handbook contains information on Georgia

landlord-tenant law as of January 2011 and, as such, may not reflect the current status of Georgia law. Before

relying on the information in this Handbook, the underlying law should be independently researched and analyzed in

light of your specific problem and facts.

          In Georgia, there is not a governmental agency which 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.

          A single copy of the Handbook is provided free of charge. The Handbook is also available on the internet

at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs Website, www.dca.ga.gov under Publications, and at

www.legalaid-ga.org.




                                                        3
                         LANDLORD TENANT BASICS

What laws govern the landlord tenant relationship?

       Georgia law does not regulate the details of the landlord-tenant relationship but does set

forth the general rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. The Georgia Legislature

passes laws which govern the rental of residential rental property in this state. These laws are

contained in the Official Code of Georgia, Title 44, Chapter 7. The Georgia Supreme Court and

the Georgia Court of Appeals decide cases which clarify how laws apply. Court decisions create

a second type of law: case law. A court deciding a landlord tenant dispute looks at both the laws

contained in the Code and case law. Your public library may have copies of the Official Code of

Georgia and the decisions of the Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. You can access

the Official Code of Georgia through the internet at www.legis.state.ga.us. You can access

decisions of the Georgia courts through their website at www.gaappeals.us and

www.gasupreme.us. You can also access information on landlord tenant law and other housing

issues at www.legalaid-ga.org.

       If you are a landlord or tenant, not participating in a federal government housing

program, there are only a few federal laws which apply to you. Federal law requires a landlord

to notify renters of lead paint and to avoid discrimination in housing. Federal law also governs

the treatment of military service members and tenants living in foreclosed properties. In addition

to federal and state law, the management of residential rental property is regulated by local

housing codes. A landlord should contact their local county commission or city hall to find out if

their community has a housing code and how it is enforced.



                                                4
What are the responsibilities of a landlord?

       If you are a landlord, you are responsible for keeping the unit in a safe and habitable

condition, making repairs, selecting tenants, and collecting rent from tenants. 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. A written lease which clearly sets out the duties of both the landlord

and the tenant provides the best protection for both parties. The actions of a landlord are

controlled by the terms of the lease and applicable federal, state, and local law. There are a

variety of books and websites which describe in general terms the advantages and disadvantages

of becoming a landlord. You might also wish to consult with an attorney or real estate agent,

experienced in managing rental property, for help in selecting a lease and understanding the

rights and responsibilities of a landlord.

What is the difference between a tenant and a boarder?

       Your legal rights depend on whether you are a tenant or boarder. A tenant is one who

pays rent for the exclusive right to use the premises, usually for a defined period. A boarder is

one who pays a fee for the right to use a room and receive services, generally for a short period

of time. To determine if you are a tenant or boarder the court will look at:

       * Does the written agreement refer to itself as a lease and to payments as rent;

       * The length of time you have lived at the residence;

       * Whether the room is the only residence you have;

       * Whether you are residing there temporarily or for a long period of time;

       * How often you pay rent: if you pay daily, you are likely a guest or boarder;

       * Whether services such as linen service, switchboard service and maid service are
                                               5
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