If you are going to rent property to another individual, it is important that you understand the rights and responsibilities of all parties and understand the laws of your state. For purposes of this article we are going to focus on Georgia Lease and Rental Agreements law. If you are a landlord in another state be sure to do research specific to you.
While rental agreements (leases) are not required to be in writing, you will be well served to have a comprehensive written agreement with your tenant (in other words only execute leases with a valid written agreement). Without a written agreement you could find yourself in a “he said”, “she said” disagreement and leave room for interpretation during legal proceedings.
Your agreement should clearly outline the terms of the agreement and be notarized when signed. You goal is to ensure that you minimize your risk by addressing issues in writing before they actually occur. The relevant state legal code for rental agreements and lease can be found in the Georgia Code section 8-3-201, 202; 44-7-31.
Lease Duration: Typically leases are for a period of one year. If you accept a payment in the 13th month (after the original lease has expired) it is implied that the lease has renewed for another year. If you plan to rent to the tenant for a period shorter than an additional year you will want to execute a new lease agreement that specifies the exact time frame. For example if you plan to rent for an additional 3 months, have a signed agreement with the tenant that you are renting for the additional 3 months and include the dates where the lease begins and where it terminates.
Deposits: If you require a deposit on your lease (and it is highly recommended that you do secure a deposit) there is no stated maximum limit in Georgia that you can charge. You will want to check with your city and county to determine if they have set a limit. If you own more than 10 rental units you will nee to place the funds in an escrow account used only for security deposits. Once the lease terminates you must return the funds, less any deductions for damage, to the tenant.
Discrimination: You are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, disability, family status or national origin. Be careful of what questions you ask on your rental application and any questions asked even over the phone or in-person.
Evictions: Nobody wins in an eviction situation. While you may have valid reasons for evicting a client it will in the end cost you time and money. That is just part of the risk you assume as a landlord. Some of the valid reasons for an eviction include:
You will need to file your legal claim in the county where the rental property is located. There are multiple venues where the action can be filed so do your research by visiting the Administrative Office of the Court of Georgia. Be sure to comply with the terms in the lease regarding notice and termination. Any written communication you send should be sent certified mail requiring a signature by your tenant.
This article isn’t meant to address or cover every legal situation or all rules and requirements, but serves a primer to get you started in understanding some of the key provisions. You will want to ensure that you do your research and work with an attorney, a property manager or both to ensure that you are protecting yourself. Being a property investor or landlord is a great way to generate income to create wealth. Just be sure that you minimize your risk by understanding and following the legal requirements of Georgia Lease and Rental Agreements law.
If understanding the legal requirements seems confusing and time consuming, you might consider hiring a property manager. GSPM assists property owners and investors in maximizing revenue potential while minimizing the hassles in marketing and managing their properties. We recognize that there are a lot of factors that go into making a property a successful investment and put our experience and knowledge to work for you. Call us at 404-254-4502 or complete our Fast Form to learn more about our services.