Georgian landlords have a freer rein on the notice periods tenants receive compared to the other states in the United States. Even so, they are encouraged to be sympathetic to the issues of their tenants when it comes to an eviction process.
The eviction process in Georgia is more or less the same compared to the other states:
Every eviction process is different and dependent on the lease/rental agreement signed by the tenant and the landlord. It also depends on the availability of the court to arrange a hearing and how quickly authorities can act upon the issuance of the Writ of Possession.
This article details a summary for landlords to refer to when evicting a tenant. Confirm procedures with your justice court to avoid mistakes and confusion.
1. Failure to pay rent on time
Rent is usually considered late a day past its due date. If the lease/rental agreement allows a grace period, then that will be followed.
Before a landlord can start the eviction process, they must give the tenant either a written or verbal notice to pay the rent.
Unlike most states which implement a specific number of days before a landlord can proceed with an eviction after notice, Georgia leaves this responsibility to the landlords.
It is recommended to include this notice in the lease to avoid tenant retaliation.
If the tenant pays the rent within the notice period, then the eviction process does not continue. If the tenant is unable to pay, then the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
2. Violation of the lease/rental agreement
The rental lease agreement has to be upheld by both tenant and landlord for the entire duration of the tenant’s stay. Agreements may vary from tenant to tenant.
If a tenant violates any terms from the lease agreement, the landlord is not required to let the tenant correct the violation.
They may proceed with the eviction process after giving the client either a verbal or written notice that they have violated the lease/rental agreement terms and must vacate the property.
Lease violations may include:
- Staying longer than indicated on the lease
- Disturbing the other tenants with loud activity
- Damaging rental property
- Smoking in non-smoking areas
- Keeping pets in pet-free properties, etc.
- Engaging in criminal activity
- Theft, violence, assault
There is no official notice period landlords must follow. It is solely up to them or to the terms of the lease/rental agreement (if stated).
If the tenants remain on the property after the notice period ends, then the landlord may continue with the eviction.
3. Non-renewal of the lease after the rental period ends
In Georgia, landlords cannot evict tenants or force them to vacate the property without probable cause. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules, they can stay until their rental period ends.
But if the tenant stays in the property even a day after their lease/rental agreement ends and has not arranged for renewal, landlords can issue a written notice to move. If the tenancy is of the type month-to-month, a 60-Day Notice to Vacate should be issued.
Filing a Complaint
1. How to File a Complaint
The eviction process can only begin after the notice period expires. The landlord must have allowed enough time to pass before filing for eviction.
The eviction process is as follows:
- Proceed to the justice court the rental property belongs to
- File an affidavit
- Pay the fees
In Georgia, filing fees may start at $60 but go as high as $75. Prices may vary from court to court.
The notice period can take as short as 24 hours to 60 days, depending on the landlord’s leniency.
Serving the Tenant
1. How to Serve a Tenant
An official from the court delivers the Summons and Affidavit to the tenant. The sheriff is usually assigned this task.
There are several methods to accomplish this:
- Personal Service: The court official delivers the Summons and Affidavit to the tenant in person
- Substituted Service: If the tenant is unavailable, an adult living with the tenant may receive the Summons and Affidavit. If none of these methods are possible, the court official turns to the following method:
- Posting and Mailing: The server mails the documents via first-class mail. When using this method, the court official leaves a copy of the documents for the tenant. It is placed in a secure and visible position by the entrance of the tenant’s rented property.
Landlords are not allowed to serve the tenant themselves or task someone else with the job. Only the Sheriff is permitted to complete this step of the eviction process.
2. After Serving the Summons and Complaint
The tenant has 7 days after receiving the Summons and Affidavit to respond to the court. Though a written response is preferred, a verbal response is also allowed, given that a transcript of the verbal response is written down on the Affidavit.
If the eviction process is about failure to pay rent, the tenant has 7 days to pay the rent in full to avoid eviction.
There is no specified length of time for the documents to be served to the tenant. But do note that the court will not schedule a hearing until the tenant replies.
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgement and get a Judgement for Possession
The landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against the tenant. If the tenant does not send in a reply to the Summons and Affidavit or fails to show up to the hearing, the landlord wins by default.
If the landlord does not win, they can still appeal within 7 days post-judgment for reconsideration.
There is no specific timeline for the scheduling of the eviction hearing. It depends entirely on the court’s availability.
1. After the landlord wins the case
Provided that the tenant does not appeal for reconsideration, a Writ of Possession is issued no less than 7 days after the landlord wins the case. The Writ of Possession gives the tenant at least 7 days to vacate the property.
2. Move out process
There is no specific amount of time after the issuance of the Writ of Possession for officials to evict the tenant forcefully. It depends on how quickly they can execute the writ once it has been released.
If the tenant leaves behind any belongings, the landlord is under no legal obligation to store them or allow the tenant time to retrieve them. They can dispose of them immediately.
The tenants have 7 days to move out of the property after the landlord wins the case.
Georgia Eviction Process Timeline
Below is the average timeline for a complete eviction process. This timeline does not include special cases such as appeals for reconsideration. It is also not accurate because Georgia eviction laws do not have specific notice periods landlords must follow.
On average, it would take anywhere between 14 days to 80 days for a complete eviction process.
1. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and replied
In the state of Georgia, a reply from the tenant is necessary for a court date to be scheduled.
If the tenant responds to the Summons and Affidavit, the court schedules a date for the eviction hearing. The date can be between a few days to a few months after a tenant’s reply.
If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, the tenant has 7 days to appeal the ruling, and vice versa.
2. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the request for the eviction process and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This gets VERY hard to search through, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other option that is easily searchable.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
3. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, when rent is due, and any penalties for late payment.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also show any fees your bank may have charged you, and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, a letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
4. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, it’s safe to say you will normally win this dispute.
- Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. As a good practice though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.
Can I force a tenant to move out in Georgia?
In almost every state in the US, a landlord must never try to force a tenant to move out of the rental unit. The tenant can only be removed once the landlord wins the case and gets approval. Even then, the only person authorized to remove the tenant is a sheriff or constable. Georgia law has made it illegal for a landlord to personally remove the tenant from the rental unit.
Which eviction methods are illegal in Georgia?
Self-help eviction is illegal. Examples of such acts include (but are not limited to):
- Cutting off the tenant's electric, water, and/or heat supply
- Changing the locks to prevent the tenant from entering the property
- Vandalizing or destroying the tenant's property
What are the penalties for a self-help eviction in Georgia?
According to Georgia Civil Code, you may be liable for Tenant's Court Costs & Attorneys' Fees. The statute also gives the tenant the right to stay if you were to attempt to forcefully evict them.
A tenant can sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.
What other laws should I be aware of in Georgia?
Landlords should be aware of the changes made to the Eviction Policies in the state of Georgia. Especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is also wise for landlords to check out laws on Security Deposits. These deposits protect the landlord in case the tenants violate any terms in the lease/rental agreement or fail to pay their rent.