A landlord has rights when it comes to removing a tenant; however, the tenant enjoys certain rights put in place for the tenant's protection as well. It is important for a landlord to be aware of these laws and regulations, and follow the procedure properly. In Georgia, there is a clearly defined set of procedures a landlord must employ to legally evict a tenant. These same procedures apply for residential and commercial situations. If a landlord has just cause and properly adheres to the law, the process can be quick and easy.
Basis for eviction
In Georgia, there are a number of legitimate causes for evicting a tenant. Failure to pay rent, or failure to pay rent on time is a cause for eviction. Failure to surrender the property upon reaching the end of the lease term is also grounds for eviction. Any breach of the lease can be used as grounds for default, including misuse of the property and criminal activity on the premises. Whatever the breach of contract is, it is important for the landlord to have clear documentation of the misuse.
Before going to the courts, the first step a landlord must take towards eviction in Georgia is to notify the tenant of his intentions. First, a phone call must be placed at the time the tenant becomes in violation of the lease. If it is a rent violation, on the fifth day of the violation written notification must be given to the tenant, demanding the tenant immediately relinquish possession and vacate the premises. Regardless of the tenant's offense, this notice should be sent in the form of a Demand of Possession letter. Required by Georgia Law, this letter is the official start of the eviction procedure.
If, upon receipt of the Demand of Possession letter, the tenant does not vacate the premises, the landlord must now involve the court. In the local magistrate court, the landlord will file a Dispossessory Affidavit. The affidavit will state the names of the tenant and landlord, along with the grounds for eviction. It will also verify that the landlord has been refused in the demands to vacate as requested in the Demand of Possession letter. Any monetary amount owed the landlord will also be declared in the affidavit.
Upon proper filing of the Dispossessory Affidavit, the magistrate court will issue a summons to the tenant. This summons will be served by the sheriff to the tenant at the property in question. If the sheriff is unable to contact the tenant with the summons, the sheriff may affix the summons to the door of the property. The summons requires that the tenant answer to the court, either orally, personally or in writing, within seven working days. The location and deadline date should be indicated within the summons.
If the tenant does not respond to the court ordered summons within the allotted time, the landlord will be granted a writ of possession by the court. The sheriff will then proceed with the immediate removal of the tenant. If the tenant does appear in court, a trial will be held on the issues of the eviction. During the time of the trial, the tenant will maintain possession of the property. If the court reaches a decision in favor of the landlord, the tenant will then be given seven days to vacate the premises. Any outstanding rent still owed the landlord may be ordered to be paid directly to the court.
Avoidance of eviction
A tenant served with a Dispossessory Affidavit due to outstanding rent may be able to avoid further eviction proceedings by paying the outstanding balance, including all court costs. This must be paid within seven days of receipt of the affidavit. This may only occur once in a 12-month period. The landlord maintains the right to refuse the payment; however, the court may order the landlord to accept payment.