Georgia law allows a landlord to evict a tenant for not paying rent on time. You must give the tenant notice that rent is due and the tenant must refuse to pay the rent before you can file an eviction lawsuit with the court.
Paying Rent in Georgia
Unless the lease agreement says otherwise, rent is generally due on the first day of each month, regardless of weekends or holidays. If the first day of the month falls on a Saturday or a holiday, the tenant must still pay rent on that day. If the tenant does not pay rent on that day, the landlord could consider the rent late.
Giving an Eviction Notice to a Tenant
If the tenant fails to pay rent by the first day of the month, a landlord can give the tenant an eviction notice. The landlord can issue the notice to the tenant the very next day after rent is due, if the rent remains unpaid. If the tenant refuses to move out of the apartment or pay rent, then the landlord can file an affidavit with the court to begin the eviction lawsuit. The eviction lawsuit is also called a dispossessory proceeding (see Ga. Code Ann. § 44-7-50).
Georgia law has no set time frame for how long a landlord must wait after giving the tenant an eviction notice and filing an eviction lawsuit. Best practice for landlords is to wait at least three days before filing the eviction lawsuit, to give the tenant time to pay the rent or move out of the apartment.
Information Included in an Eviction Notice in Georgia
Georgia law does not require an eviction notice to be written. A landlord could orally tell a tenant that he/she will begin eviction proceedings against the tenant for not paying rent, unless the tenant moves out of the rental unit or pays the late rent. However, it is best practice to put the notice in writing. If a landlord gives the tenant a written notice, it is best for the notice to include the following information:
- date the notice was served on the tenant(s)
- name(s) and address of tenant(s) rental unit
- the reason for the notice (that the tenant failed to pay rent for a specified period of time)
- total amount of rent past due, including any late charges, and where and to whom the rent and late charges should be paid
- a statement that the tenant has a certain time period (best practice is three days) to pay the rent and late charges (the notice should specify the exact date by which this must happen) or the landlord will begin eviction proceedings, and
- a statement specifying how the notice was given to the tenant.
Giving the Eviction Notice to the Tenant
Because Georgia law does not require the eviction notice to be written, there is also no guidance on how the notice must be given to the tenant. If the landlord chooses to give the tenant a written notice, it is best practice for the landlord to give the notice to the tenant in one of the following ways:
1. The landlord, or the agent of the landlord, can personally give the notice to the tenant.
2. The landlord, or an agent of the landlord, can post the notice in a conspicuous place at the rental unit, such as on the front door of the apartment.
3. The landlord can mail a copy of the notice to the tenant through registered or certified mail. It is always best practice to request a return receipt if using this option.
Responding to an Eviction Notice in Georgia
The tenant has a few options when receiving an eviction notice:
1. The tenant can pay the rent and any associated late charges. The tenant can even pay rent up to seven days after receiving the paperwork for the eviction lawsuit. If the tenant pays the rent, the landlord must accept it and stop the eviction proceedings (see Ga. Code Ann. § 44-7-52).
2. The tenant can move out of the rental unit. If the tenant moves out of the rental unit but does not pay rent, the landlord can use the security deposit to cover the unpaid rent, or sue the tenant for the amount owed to the landlord.
3. If the tenant does not pay the rent and does not move out of the rental unit, then the landlord can file an affidavit with the court to begin the eviction process, or dispossessory proceeding.
Filing an Eviction Lawsuit in Georgia
The landlord can file an affidavit with the court to begin the dispossessory proceedings if the tenant refuses to move out of the apartment after receiving notice. The landlord must obtain an order from the judge before the tenant can actually be evicted.
A landlord in Georgia cannot evict a tenant without a court order. It is illegal for landlords to change the locks on the door or shut off the utilities to the rental unit. This type of behavior is often referred to as a "self-help" eviction, and it is illegal in Georgia (see Ga. Code Ann. § 44-7-14.1).
Additional Resources for Landlord-Tenant Issues in Georgia
Even though Georgia law does not set out too many rules for evicting a tenant, the state of Georgia has published a helpful handbook entitled the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook. This handbook provides many answers to commonly asked eviction-related questions.
The Nolo website also has many articles on landlord-tenant relations in Georgia, including illegal eviction procedures in Georgia and tenant defenses to evictions in Georgia. The Georgia charts in the State Landlord-Tenant Laws section of the Nolo website also have useful information. For more eviction articles, see the Evicting a Tenant or Ending a Lease section of the Nolo site.