Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in Georgia

A summary of key laws every Georgia landlord and tenant needs to know.

By , Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law

Georgia laws govern much of the landlord-tenant relationship, including security deposits, late rent, and evictions. Here's a breakdown of key laws that affect nearly all Georgia landlords and tenants.

Georgia Rental Application and Tenant Screening Laws

Unlike many other states, Georgia regulates very little of the tenant application and screening process.

Application Fees

There is no law in Georgia that prohibits landlords from charging an application fee.

Tenant Screening Reports

A tenant screening report is a credit report, criminal background report, employment history report, or rental history report that a landlord uses to determine whether an applicant would be an acceptable tenant. Georgia landlords are free to charge reasonable amounts for tenant screening reports.

Criminal History Screening

Georgia doesn't have a state law prohibiting landlords from considering applicants' criminal histories. However, landlords must still be careful. When landlords consider applicants' criminal history, they must do so in a consistent, nondiscriminatory manner. If a landlord's practice of considering criminal history has a discriminatory effect—for example, if the landlord asks only applicants of a certain color for criminal history information—the landlord is engaging in illegal discrimination and can be subject to penalties. Also, landlords can reject applicants only for past convictions that are "directly-related" to the application—in other words, convictions that have a negative bearing on a legitimate business concern of the landlord.

Fair Housing Laws

All landlords need to follow federal and state antidiscrimination laws when screening applicants for a rental. Federal fair housing laws prohibit landlords from discriminating on the basis of:

  • race or color
  • religion
  • national origin
  • familial status or age (includes families with children under the age of 18 and pregnant women)
  • disability or handicap, and
  • sex (includes gender identity and sexual orientation).

Georgia's fair housing law mirrors the categories protected under the federal fair housing laws. (Ga. Code §§ 8-3-200 and following.)

For more information about Georgia's fair housing laws, visit Georgia Legal Aid's website.

Georgia Security Deposit Laws

As of July 1, 2024, Georgia landlords can't charge more than two months' rent for a security deposit. Until then, there is no cap on how much landlords can charge. (2024 Ga. Laws Act 392 (H.B. 404); Ga. Code § 44-7-30.1 (2024).)

Damage deposits, advance rent deposits, and pet deposits are all considered to be security deposits under Georgia law. (Ga. Code § 44-7-30 (2024).)

What Landlords Must Do Before Accepting a Security Deposit

Before the tenant gives the landlord a security deposit, the landlord must provide the tenant with a list of existing damage to the rental. The landlord and tenant must sign the list, and the list will serve as proof of the condition of the rental at the beginning of the tenancy. If the tenant won't sign the list, the tenant must state in a written and signed statement which items in the list they disagree with. (Ga. Code § 44-7-33(a) (2024).)

How Landlords Must Hold Security Deposits

Georgia landlords must place security deposits in an escrow account in a bank or lending institution. Landlords must inform tenants in writing of the location of the escrow account. (Ga. Code § 44-7-31 (2024).)

Security Deposit Return

Within three days of the end of the tenancy, the landlord must inspect the rental and make a list of damages for which the landlord plans to withhold part or all of the security deposit. The list must estimate the dollar value of the damage.

The tenant can request to inspect the rental and receive the list within five days of the end of the tenancy. If the tenant is present with the landlord during the inspection, the landlord and tenant must sign the list. If the tenant disagrees with any of the damages on the list, they must put their disagreement in a signed statement. (Ga. Code § 44-7-33(b) (2024).)

Within 30 days of the end of the tenancy, the landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant. If the landlord withholds any of the security deposit, the landlord must provide a written statement identifying the reasons it was withheld, along with a copy of the damage list mentioned above (if the deposit is being kept due to damages). The security deposit funds and accounting must be sent to the tenant's last known address.

If the security deposit repayment is returned to the landlord and the landlord can't locate the tenant with reasonable effort, the landlord can wait 90 days from the date of mailing, then keep the remaining funds. (Ga. Code § 44-7-34 (2024).)

Landlord Penalties

If a landlord doesn't follow the rules regarding holding the security deposit in escrow and providing the initial and final damage lists, they won't be able to keep any portion of the security deposit or sue the tenant for damage to the rental. (Ga. Code § 44-7-35(a), (b) (2024).)

When a landlord wrongfully fails to return all or part of the security deposit, the landlord will owe the tenant three times the amount wrongfully withheld, plus attorneys' fees. However, the landlord can avoid these penalties if they can show that the withholding wasn't intentional and was due to an error. (Ga. Code § 44-7-35(c) (2024).)

Required Landlord Disclosures in Georgia

In many states, landlords must disclose specific information to tenants and potential tenants. Georgia landlords must disclose information about:

  • Flooding. Before signing a lease, if the living space or attachments have been damaged by flooding three or more times within the past five years, the landlord must disclose it in writing. (Ga. Code § 44-7-20 (2024).)
  • Owner or agent identity. When or before a tenancy begins, landlord must disclose in writing the names and addresses of the owner of record (or a person authorized to act for the owner) for purposes of service of process and receiving demands and notices, as well as the person authorized to manage the rental. If this information changes during the tenancy, the landlord must advise the tenant in writing within 30 days or post a notice in a conspicuous place. (Ga. Code § 44-7-3 (2024).)
  • Former residents, crimes. Unless asked by a prospective tenant, the landlord doesn't have to disclose whether the rental was the site of a homicide or other felony, or a suicide or a death by accidental or natural causes; or whether it was occupied by a person who was infected with a virus or other disease that has been determined by medical evidence as being highly unlikely to be transmitted through the occupancy of a dwelling place presently or previously occupied by an infected person. However, if a prospective tenant asks about any of these things, the landlord must answer truthfully to the best of the landlord's knowledge. (Ga. Code § 44-1-16 (2024).)

In addition, landlords in all states must follow federal lead-based paint disclosure rules.

Georgia Late Fees and Other Rent Rules

In Georgia, rent is due on whatever day the landlord and tenant agree to.

Grace Periods and Late Fees

Georgia doesn't require landlords to give tenants a grace period for paying rent. However, a landlord and tenant can agree in the lease or rental agreement that there will be a grace period.

Georgia landlords can charge late fees, and there is no cap on how much they can charge. Most judges won't enforce unreasonable late fees, though. In general, a late fee will be considered reasonable as long as it doesn't exceed 4%-5% of the rent and has an upper limit.

Rent Increases

Georgia landlords can't raise the rent during the term of a lease unless the lease specifically allows them to do so.

For month-to-month tenancies, Georgia law doesn't specify an amount of notice landlords must give to raise the rent. A reasonable amount of notice would likely be the same length of time that the agreement is for: 30 days.

Georgia Landlords Must Provide Habitable Rentals

Like landlords in all states, Georgia landlords must provide rentals that are safe and fit for human habitation. Specifically, Georgia law states that landlords must keep the rental in repair. (Ga. Code § 44-7-13 (2024).) Landlords are liable for any damages caused as a result of their failure to repair the rental. (Ga. Code § 44-7-14 (2024).)

Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent in Georgia

Georgia statutes (unlike some states' statutes) do not provide tenants with the right to withhold rent or make repairs and deduct the costs from rent. However, decisions made by courts in lawsuits indicate that Georgia tenants can repair and deduct the costs from rent in some situations.

If you're a tenant considering making repairs, you must first give the landlord notice that a repair is needed, and provide reasonable time for the landlord to make the repairs. Tenants should also notify the landlord of their intent to repair and deduct, not spend too much money making the repairs, and keep careful records of and receipts for the repairs. Consult a local attorney to find out if there are other steps you need to take before using a repair and deduct remedy. For more guidance on repair and deduct in Georgia, check out the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook.

Small Claims Lawsuits in Georgia

If you find yourself in a battle over a security deposit or repairs, small claims court is a good place to bring your grievance. Small claims court in Georgia is called "magistrate court," and it can hear cases in which the plaintiff—the person suing—isn't asking for more than $15,000. The court can also hear eviction cases (and there's no monetary limits for eviction suits).

Small claims court procedures tend to be simpler than those of regular courts, and, although Georgia allows parties to have lawyers, many people represent themselves.

Georgia Termination and Eviction Rules

Georgia landlords must follow very specific rules and procedures in order to terminate a tenancy and then, if necessary, file an eviction lawsuit (also called a "dispossessory proceeding" in Georgia).

Notice of Termination For Cause

A landlord must have cause—a legal reason—to end a tenancy early. In Georgia, legal cause is:

  • failing to pay rent or
  • violating the terms of the lease or rental agreement.

If a tenant fails to pay rent or violates the terms of the lease or rental agreement, the landlord must give the tenant a written notice, also called a demand, asking for rent to be paid or for the tenant to come into compliance with the lease or rental agreement.

As of July 1, 2024, when a tenant fails to pay rent, late fees, utilities, or other amounts owed, the landlord must give the tenant a three-day notice to pay in full or move out. If the tenant does neither, the landlord can go to court and file an eviction lawsuit. (2024 Ga. Laws Act 392 (H.B. 404); Ga. Code § 44-7-50 (2024).)

Until July 1, 2024, Georgia's existing law that doesn't state how long the landlord must wait after giving notice governs. The landlord could give the tenant as little as 24 hours or as long as 10 days to comply with the notice. If the tenant does not comply, the landlord can file the eviction lawsuit. (Ga. Code § 44-7-50 (2024).)

The new three-day notice law does not apply in situations where the tenant has violated the lease or rental agreement. In these situations, the landlord can give the tenant as much notice as they feel is appropriate. If the tenant doesn't comply, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit. (Ga. Code § 44-7-50(a) (2024).)

Notice of Termination Without Cause

If a landlord doesn't have cause to terminate a tenancy early and evict a tenant, the landlord must wait until the lease term has ended before expecting the tenant to move. In some cases, the landlord might still need to give the tenant written notice to move.

Month-to-Month Tenancy

If a tenant is in a month-to-month tenancy and the landlord wishes to end the tenancy, the landlord needs to give the tenant a written 60-day notice. This notice will inform the tenant that the landlord is terminating the tenancy and the tenant must move out of the rental unit by the end of 60 days. If the tenant doesn't move out of the rental by that time, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit. (Ga. Code § 44-7-7 (2024).)

Fixed-Term Tenancy

If a landlord doesn't have cause to evict a tenant who is in a fixed-term tenancy (such as for six months or one year), the landlord must wait until the end of the term before expecting the tenant to move. The landlord doesn't need to give the tenant written notice to move unless the terms of the lease or rental agreement specifically require the landlord to do so. The landlord can expect the tenant to move by the end of the term.

For more details, including possible defenses to evictions, see Nolo's The Eviction Process in Georgia.

Georgia Rules About Landlords' Access to Property

Although Georgia doesn't have a specific law about when and how landlords can enter a rental property, landlords can always enter a rental with the tenant's consent or when there's a reasonable belief that there's imminent danger to lives or property.

Where to Find Georgia Landlord-Tenant Laws

To read the text of a law itself, see the Georgia General Assembly's website.

Local Ordinances Affecting Georgia Landlords and Tenants

Cities and counties often pass local ordinances, such as health and safety standards, noise and nuisance regulations, and anti-discrimination rules that affect landlords and tenants. Many municipalities have websites—just search for the name of a particular city in Georgia and then do a search when you're on the site.

Municode is a good source for finding local governments online. Also, your local public library or office of the city attorney, mayor, or city or county manager can provide information on local ordinances that affect landlords and tenants in Georgia.

Federal Landlord-Tenant Laws and Regulations

Congress and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have enacted laws and regulations that apply to the landlord-tenant relationship in Georgia. These laws and regulations address topics such as discrimination and landlord responsibilities to disclose environmental health hazards, such as lead-based paint.

The U.S. Code is the starting place for most federal statutory research. It consists of 53 separate numbered titles, each covering a specific subject matter. Most federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"). To access the U.S. Code and Code of Federal Regulations online, see the federal section of the Library of Congress's legal research site.

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Nolo Resources on Legal Research and Landlord-Tenant Law

For more information on legal research, check out Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law, by Stephen Elias (Nolo). This nontechnical book gives easy-to-use, step-by-step instructions on how to find legal information.

You'll also find a wealth of information in Nolo's landlord-tenant books.

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For tenants:

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