The Georgia eviction process has some unique features that distinguish it from other states and make evicting a tenant easier in some respects if the tenant has violated some provision of the lease agreement or has failed to pay the rent.
A Georgia landlord, however, cannot threaten a tenant, remove his or her personal belongings from the rental property, shut off the utilities or deny the tenant access to the property without first following all the required steps in the Georgia eviction process. Any self-eviction conduct could subject the landlord to criminal charges of trespass and render him or her civilly liable for monetary damages, including punitive damages, if the tenant brings a civil suit.
Expiration of Lease
Once the lease expires, or if the lease is a month-to-month, the Georgia eviction notice is 30-days to the tenant without the landlord having to identify any reason for the eviction so long as it is not for a discriminatory or retaliatory purpose.
If the tenant has failed to pay rent or has violated some provision of the lease such as by allowing unauthorized pets, using the premises as a unauthorized business, annoying other tenants, or has persons or pets living on the premises without permission, the landlord must demand that the tenant pay the overdue rent, comply with the lease provisions or vacate by a certain date.
The Georgia eviction process does not require that the Georgia eviction notice be in writing, but it is good practice to send a written notice to the tenant asking that he or she comply by a certain date or give up possession. Georgia law also does not specify how long the landlord must give the tenant to comply, unless there is a notice period specified in the written lease.
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In any event, If the tenant does not comply, then the landlord needs to go to court to obtain a dispossessory warrant or affidavit.
The affidavit is made at the magistrate’s court under oath and must state the following:
- The names of the parties
- The grounds for the eviction
- That the landlord has demanded possession of the premises and been refused
- The amount of rent owed, if any
After the affidavit is prepared, the court will issue a summons or warrant to the sheriff to serve on the tenant. The tenant is advised that he or she has 7 days to answer the warrant.
Service of Summons/Warrant
A warrant must be served on the tenant by the sheriff or police personally on the tenant or to someone of suitable age who lives there. If service cannot be made personally, then the summons or warrant may be posted or attached to the house or door and mailed to the tenant. Personal service is required if the landlord is asking for money damages along with possession of the property.
Answer to Warrant
A tenant can either respond to the warrant in writing or by going to the court clerk who will write an Answer containing the tenant’s defenses to the eviction, including any counterclaims the tenant may have.
If the Answer is provided within 7 days after service of the warrant, the court will schedule a court hearing usually within 10 days, though the time may be longer. Should no Answer be filed, the landlord must request a default and ask for a Writ of Possession, which is given to the Sheriff to serve. Usually, the tenant is only given 24-hours to leave.
If the issue of the right of possession is to be heard beyond a 2-week period after service of the summons or warrant, or if the rent has become due, Georgia law requires that the tenant deposit the rent and any utility payments that are due after the issuance of the dispossessory warrant with the court or it will declare a default and issue a Writ of Possession to the landlord.
If the tenant claims the rent was paid, he or she may be permitted to file a receipt indicating payment was made.
The eviction hearing is held before a judge only who will listen to both parties. If the landlord prevails, a Writ of Possession will be issued and the tenant ordered to vacate, usually within 10 days. A separate judgment for money damages will be issued if it was demanded and personal service of the warrant was performed.
A tenant has a number of defenses to an eviction or dispossessory action, including the following:
- Discriminatory eviction. Under no circumstances may a landlord evict a tenant based on the tenant’s personal characteristics such as race, color, creed, religion, national origin, family status or disability.
- Retaliation. The eviction also cannot be in retaliation for the tenant having complained about the condition of the property to government authorities or for having participated in a tenants’ union.
- Rent was paid within 7 days after service of warrant. If so, this is a complete defense and the landlord is obligated to accept the rent and all court costs if these were specified in the warrant. If the nonpayment of rent was the subject of a previous action within the prior 12-months, the landlord need not accept the rent. In the previous action, however, the landlord must not have refused a tender of the entire rent.
- Partial payment accepted. If the landlord accepted a partial payment before the court issued a Writ of Possession, the landlord may have waived the eviction action and will have to start it again.
- The premises was seriously damaged or destroyed by no fault of the tenant who may not be obligated to pay any further rent and may vacate, or may be ordered to pay a portion of the rent while the landlord makes the repairs.
A tenant still has an opportunity to stop the eviction if the landlord agrees to accept tender of the rent after a Writ has been issued, but the tenant should require that the landlord void the writ and state in writing that the tenant may remain in possession.
The parties can also agree on a time and date for the tenant to leave the premises; otherwise, the sheriff will post a 24-hours notice to the tenant. If the tenant does not leave, the sheriff will appear with the landlord to supervise the tenant’s eviction. The landlord is responsible for removing the tenant’s personal belongings.
Once the tenant’s belongings are removed, the landlord has no further legal obligation to keep or protect them.
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