Georgia landlord tenant law is an area that is important to many of our clients. Whether you are a homeowner having to deal with a nightmare tenant who won’t pay their bills, or whether you are a tenant having to deal with a nightmare landlord who won’t keep your home in repair—it is important to understand your legal rights in either situation.
In today’s article we will discuss the notice requirements a landlord must give a tenant prior to eviction:
In Georgia, unless required by the lease, a landlord is generally not required to provide notice prior to filing what is known as a “dispossessory proceeding” which is a fancy term for taking back possession of the property. It is important for both landlords and tenants to carefully check the lease agreement to see what in fact it does say about the notice requirement in order to make sure they comply with the contractual lease agreement to protect themselves from a breach of contract claim.
What is required prior to filing dispossessory proceedings? The landlord needs to “demand possession” of the premises before they can start a dispossessory proceeding. See: O.C.G.A. §44-7-50. This demand for possession does not need to contain any special magic words as long as the landlord clearly demands that he or she wants the tenant to move out and to return the property. Stephens v. Hous. Autho., 293 S.E.2d 53, 53 (Ga. Ct. App. 1982).
If a landlord is trying to get the tenant to leave because he or she has failed to pay the rent, the landlord needs to make sure that the demand for possession of the property is after the due date of the rent but before the beginning of the dispossessory proceeding. If the landlord is seeking to remove the tenant because they are still staying in the house after their lease term has finished (what is known as “holding over), the landlord must give the demand for possession on or after termination of the lease but again, prior to the start of the dispossessory proceedings.
The demand doesn’t need to be in writing (it can be written or oral), but it is a good idea for a landlord to do so just in order to cover themselves in court. Same goes for tenants. Anytime a tenant or a landlord encounters any type of problem or dispute concerning rental properties, it is always a good idea to document everything in writing in order to protect yourself later on from the other side lying to the Judge about what really happened. In order to show proof that the other party has actually received your letter, sending the document “certified mail, return receipt” is also preferable.
If you are a landlord with a “problem tenant” or a tenant with a “problem landlord,” don’t go it alone. Consider getting legal advice prior to taking action to make sure you are in compliance with Georgia law and that your legal rights and interests are protected.