At first, you were delighted to have a friend or family member stay in your house for a few weeks while she got back on her feet. Now, several months have passed, and your guest has definitely worn out your welcome. What next? In Georgia, a "guest" is present at your invitation which you can revoke at any time. There's a fine line between a "guest" and a "tenant," however, and you should be very clear about your guest's legal status before you try to throw her out.
Overview of Georgia Law on Kicking Someone Out
If your guest has paid no rent and has provided no services in lieu of rent, then that person is considered a house guest. Bona fide house guests, known as invitees, have no rights under Georgia law and you can get them out very quickly. If, on the other hand, your guest pays some rent or helps with chores such as housework or babysitting, then he is properly considered a tenant. And tenants have renters' rights under Georgia law.
How to Figure Out the Legal Status of Your Guest
Georgia courts have inferred a tenancy as little as two weeks after a house guest moved in, in which there was an intention to pay rent. So, the safest approach is to assume that a tenancy has been created, especially when evicting family members from your home. You don't need a written lease to create a landlord/tenant relationship, and you don't need to charge market rent. Paying just a few dollars a week towards the groceries or taking out the trash will turn the guest into a tenant in most cases. In fact, the guest may not have to part with a single dime. As long as there's an intention to pay rent or provide services, the courts may decide that you've created a legal tenancy.
How to Remove a Bona Fide House Guest
Assuming your guest meets the definition of a bona fide house guest, you don't actually have to "evict" him. Eviction is the process of removing legal tenants from a property, and your guest is not a tenant. Once the guest has overstayed her welcome, all you have to do is call the police and tell them that the guest is trespassing on your property. Don't try to forcibly remove your guest without a police presence – this could expose you to a lawsuit for assault. It's helpful, though not essential, to give the guest 24 hours' written notice to leave. This gives the guest time to move out before you call the police.
How to Evict a Guest With Tenant Status
To evict a tenant, you have to file and win a formal eviction process through your local county court. Start the process by serving an eviction notice giving the tenant written notice to move out. Georgia law does not specify the length of the notice so in theory, you could give the guest as little as 24 hours to leave. However, you must wait until the "lease" is ended before serving the eviction notice. When evicting a family member with no lease in Georgia, it's wise to assume that the guest has a month-to-month tenancy which needs a 60-day notice to quit. Follow this up by filing an eviction lawsuit with the court if the guest does not leave when the 60 days is up. The court clerk can provide information and the relevant court forms.
Things to Look Out For
Take care that you don't accept money from the guest after serving an eviction notice. This could create a new tenancy and put you back at square one. Be aware too, that the guest may choose to fight an eviction lawsuit, even if you believe that an eviction is justified. This could increase the length of time the court action takes, and you may have to argue your position in front of a judge. If you are not sure whether the guest is a tenant or not, or what type of tenancy he has, you should talk to a lawyer before you decide what to do next.
A "guest" can become a "tenant" in as little as two weeks in Georgia, so you likely will need a court order before you attempt to evict someone.
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts.