As a landlord in Georgia, you always hope that you will never have to go through the tedious, stressful, and costly eviction process. Sadly, you may encounter it for one reason or another. All the same, it’s advisable to be well-informed and prepared by taking time to familiarize yourself with the entire process.
As an experienced Atlanta property management company, we are well informed on the George Landlord-Tenant Laws. So, to ensure that you carry out the eviction according to the law, here is a quick guide to the eviction process in the state of Georgia.
The Eviction Process in Georgia- Everything You Need to Know
1. Understand the Georgia Landlord-Tenant Eviction Laws
Georgia laws have some unique features that distinguish them from other states. The laws make it easier for you to evict a tenant if they have violated the rental/lease agreement or failed to pay rent.
However, as a landlord, the law prohibits you from threatening a tenant, removing his or her valuables from the rental property, denying a renter access to the property, or shutting off utilities. These eviction measures are known as “self-help” and are illegal (Ga. Code Ann. § 44-7-14.1)
Using self-help eviction measures could subject you to criminal charges and render you liable for monetary damages if the renter files a lawsuit. So, it’s best to follow the set rules.
Secondly, the law requires you to file a complaint with the court of law. If the judge rules in your favor, you can evict the renter from your property. If the judge rules in favor of the renter, then you have the option to lodge an appeal.
2. Issue an Eviction Notice
Georgia law allows you to evict a tenant for failing to pay rent on time, as well as for other reasons. This is usually by the first day of the month. During this time, you must serve the tenant with an eviction notice.
The law does not require the notice to be written. You have the option to orally notify the renter that you will begin eviction proceedings if they fail to pay the due rent. However, it’s a good idea to put the notice in writing to avoid missing out some details.
The eviction notice should contain the following information;
- The date the eviction notice was served to the renter
- The tenant’s full name and address of the rental unit
- The reason for the eviction notice
- The total amount of overdue rent- this may include late charges if any
- A statement that the tenant has a specific period of time to pay the rent or you will begin eviction proceedings
- A statement indicating how the eviction notice was served to the renter.
Unlike most states, the Georgia landlord-tenant law does not specify how long you should wait before filing an eviction lawsuit. You have the option to give the tenant a period of 24 hours-10 days to comply with the notice. If the tenant refuses to comply, you can go ahead and file an eviction lawsuit.
Notice of Termination Without Cause
If you don’t have any reason to terminate a tenancy early, the law requires you to wait until the end of the lease term. In certain cases, you may be obligated to give the tenant a written notice. These cases may include;
You are required to serve a tenant with a written 60-day notice if the tenant is in a month-to-month tenancy. If the tenant decides not to vacate the property after this period, you can file an eviction lawsuit.
If you don’t have a reason to evict a renter who is in a fixed-term tenancy, you must wait for their lease to end. In such a case, you don’t have to send them a notice, unless the terms of the rental/lease agreement require you to do so.
3. File a Dispossessory Action
If the tenant fails to comply even after serving him/her with an eviction notice, then you need to obtain a dispossessory affidavit. It’s also known as a dispossessory warrant and must be obtained from the judge. The affidavit contains the following information:
- The full names of the involved parties
- The reason(s) for the eviction
- A statement that the landlord had demanded possession of the rental property and had been denied
- The overdue rent, if any
Once the dispossessory affidavit is prepared, the judge will then issue a summons to the sheriff to serve on the renter. The tenant has a period of 7 days to answer the summons. If the summons cannot be served personally, it may be mailed or attached to the rental unit.
4. Answer to Summons
The renter is required to respond to the summons either in writing or by going to court. The court clerk will write an answer which contains the renters’ defenses to the eviction. If the tenant provides an answer within 7 days, the court will then schedule a hearing within 10 days.
If no answer is provided, then you can request a default and ask for a Writ of Possession. The court will order the sheriff to serve the writ of possession on the renter. In this case, the tenant will only have 24 hours to vacate the premises.
If the tenant still fails to comply, an eviction hearing will be scheduled. If you win the case, the court will issue a Writ of Possession ordering the tenant to move out of the property within 10 days. A separate judgment for monetary damages may be issued.
If the judge rules in favor of the renter, he/she may continue living on the rental property. You can choose to lodge an appeal opposing the court’s judgment. The renter can also decide to lodge an appeal if he/she finds the judgment unfair.
Assuming that the judge has ruled in your favor, the tenant has 10 days to vacate. The sheriff will provide the tenant with a 24-hour notice. If the renter refuses to vacate after the 10-days period expires, the county sheriff will forcibly evict them. You will then be responsible for disposing of the tenant’s personal possessions.
Once you remove the renters’ personal belongings, you have no further obligation to keep or protect them.
The Georgia eviction process is a unique one. Unlike other states, the process does not have too many rules for evicting a problematic tenant. As you long as you follow the legal process, the process can be rather smooth and fast.
The state of Georgia has also published a handbook entitled the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook. This handbook answers any questions you may have about the eviction process in Georgia.