Most residential leases and rental agreements in Georgia require a security deposit. This is a dollar amount, usually one month's rent, that's intended to cover damage to the premises beyond normal wear and tear, and to cushion the financial blow if a tenant skips out early on the lease without paying. Here’s a summary of Georgia landlord-tenant laws that cover the use and return of security deposits.
Does Georgia law limit how much a landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit?
No. In Georgia, there's no statutory limit on security deposits at the state level, but check your city and county laws to see if your municipality has set a cap on security deposits for residential rentals.
To learn more about steps that tenants can take to protect their security deposit after they've paid it, check out Nolo's article Protect Your Security Deposit When You Move In.
What about when a tenant moves out? What is the deadline in Georgia for returning a security deposit?
Under Georgia law, a landlord must return the tenant's security deposit within one month after the tenant has surrendered the rental property to the landlord (that is, returned the keys and vacated the property).
Learn more about tenants' rights and landlords' obligations when it comes to the return of the security deposit in Nolo's chart Cleaning and Repairs a Landlord Can Deduct from a Security Deposit and Nolo's article Get Your Security Deposit Back.
Is there additional information that Georgia landlords must provide to tenants when it comes to security deposits in Georgia?
Yes. Landlords must place the deposit in an escrow account in a state or federally regulated depository, and must inform the tenant of the location of this account. Alternatively, landlords may post a security bond securing all tenants' deposits. A landlord who owns ten or fewer rental units, unless those units are managed by an outside party, does not need to supply a written list of preexisting damage place the deposit in an escrow account.
In addition, landlords in Georgia must give the tenant a written list of preexisting damage to the rental before collecting a security deposit. Landlords in Georgia must also provide tenants with advance notice before taking any deductions out of the security deposit, such as for the cost of repairing damage to the property caused by the tenant. A landlord who owns ten or fewer rental units, unless those units are managed by an outside party, does not need to supply a written list of preexisting damage.
Where can I look up Georgia law on security deposits?
If you want to go right to the source and look up Georgia law on security deposits -- or if you're writing a letter to your landlord or tenant and want to cite the applicable law -- the relevant statute(s) can be found at Georgia Code Annotated §§ 44-7-30 to 44-7-37. Your city or county might have different landlord-tenant and security deposit laws than those at the state level in Georgia. For tips on looking up Georgia state and local laws, check out Nolo's State Laws & Legal Research section.
You may also find useful information in the state's tenant guide at http://www.dca.ga.gov/housing/housingdevelopment/programs/downloads/Georgia_Landlord_Tenant_Handbook.pdf.