LaRose Law Georgia is an experienced Georgia landlord-tenant lawyer, having represented landlords as well as tenants in both commercial and residential leasing contexts.
Commercial Leases – It’s all about the contract!
In a commercial lease in Georgia, the contract language itself will govern almost all the rights of landlords and tenants. It is thus very important for prospective commercial landlords and tenants to spell everything out in a carefully-negotiated lease contract.
LaRose Law Georgia is particularly equipped to assist in crafting contractual language that is comprehensive and clear, to anticipate and avoid contingencies or misunderstandings that could lead to costly litigation.
Where poorly drafted contractual language, unforeseen contingencies, bad faith or fraud make litigation inevitable, LaRose Law Georgia will zealously defend your position and pursue your best interests.
Solving Landlord-Tenant disputes
While Georgia landlord-tenant law is generally favorable to property owners, it does provide some extra protection to residential tenants. This is particularly true with respect to security deposits, allegations of property damage and in the context of evictions, or “dispossessories,” as they are referred to in Georgia courts.
The Tenant’s Duty to Pay Rent
Tenants have an obligation to pay rent, and that obligation is legally completely separate from the landlord’s duty to keep the property in good repair. That is why a Georgia tenant must tread very carefully when tempted to withhold rent because of some failure of the landlord to respond to requests for repairs.
If you need help dealing with an unresponsive landlord, contact LaRose Law Georgia before doing something that could get you evicted.
The Residential Landlord’s Duties
The residential landlord in Georgia has a statutory duty to keep the property in a habitable condition. This could mean making plumbing, electrical or structural repairs to the property and maintaining a working heater during winter or air conditioning in summer.
The Georgia Statutes also provide certain obligations to landlords with respect to security deposits and claims that a tenant damaged the property. The landlord must return the security deposit within thirty days after the tenant vacates the unit and may not retain any portion of it for “normal wear and tear.” In order to safely retain any security deposit or to pursue claims that a tenant damaged the property, a landlord must conduct walk-through inspections at the beginning and end of the lease to document the condition of the property and must provide an itemized list of damges to the tenant.
Residential landlords in Georgia that are an entity such as a corporation or an LLC, who use a property manager or who own more than ten rental units can be liable for as much as three times the amount of the security deposit for unlawfully retaining it.
Evictions in Georgia
In the Georgia courts an eviction is referred to as a “dispossessory” action and it is an expedited process. After demanding possession of the property from the tenant, the landlord can file a dispossessory in the Magistrate court for a small fee. The tenant can be served either personally or by “tack and mail,” (where the sheriff will post the notice on the door of the premises and simultaneously mail a copy to the tenant at the same address). Even if the tenant doesn’t actually receive the court notice (or if the tenant receives it and fails to respond) the landlord can get a Writ of Possession from the court in approximately ten days. With the Writ of Possession, the landlord can then retake the property.
If the tenant files an answer, the court will quickly schedule a hearing usually within two weeks of the answer. The Writ of Possession can be issued to the landlord as little as three days after the hearing.
Because of this expedited process, courts look unfavorably on any attempt by a landlord to evict a residential tenant by self-help.
A commercial landlord in Georgia can contract to avoid the Georgia statutory requirements of notice and of dispossessory proceedings when renting property which is not to be used as a dwelling-place. Colonial Self Storage, etc. v. Concord Properties, 147 Ga. App. 493, 495; 249 S.E.2d 310 (1978).
It is not unusual for a commercial lease contract in Georgia to provide that the landlord has the right to retake possession if the tenant defaults. Such a contractual provision can allow a landlord to change the locks or otherwise evict the commercial tenant without going to court.
In fact, if the lease contract authorizes it, a commercial landlord can do whatever is necessary to retake possession and evict a tenant, so long as there is no breach of the peace. Although self-help may be permitted, it is probably still advisable for a commercial landlord to go through the legal process.
In the residential context, this kind of self-help eviction is strictly forbidden: Under Georgia law a residential landlord may not change the locks, disconnect utilities, remove the tenant’s belongings or do anything else to deprive the tenant of possession without going to court.
If your landlord has locked you out, taken your belongings, or cut off utilities, contact LaRose Law Georgia today for immediate assistance.
If you are a landlord, a qualified Georgia landlord-tenant lawyer can help you draft customized lease contracts that are comprehensive and clear. When a dispute arises with your tenants, contact LaRose Law Georgia for help in enforcing your rights under Georgia law.