As a landlord, it can be very frustrating to have a tenant who is not paying rent but is still living in your rental property. You might be burning frustrated, but that doesn’t mean you can take matters into your own hands.
Because in Georgia, using self-help to evict a tenant isn’t allowed.
You Can’t Change The Locks
As frustrating as it is to have a non-paying tenant, a landlord in Georgia can’t just change the locks on the rental property or use threats to get a tenant out. And no, you can’t turn off his utilities either. It’s against the law. If a tenant is harmed by the self-help acts of a landlord, the tenant can bring an action against the landlord for any damages suffered due to a wrongful self-help eviction.
Instead, as a landlord, you must proceed lawfully. Your first step is to demand, either orally or in writing ( a written demand is best for evidentiary purposes later), that the tenant move out. If he doesn’t, then you can go to court to get a court order to have the tenant evicted.
Evictions in Georgia
Called a “dispossessory” or “dispossessory action,” this legal proceeding requires that the landlord file a dispossessory affidavit with the court. Before doing anything, a prudent landlord should read the lease and all of its terms regarding notification and termination of the lease.
Having abided by the lease terms, the next thing a landlord must do is to demand, either verbally or in writing, that the tenant vacate the premises and turn over the rental property to the landlord. Once this demand has been made and not complied with, the landlord can start the legal dispossessory process.
The process requires that a tenant be properly served with the dispossessory affidavit. Either the sheriff or his deputy serves the affidavit. Once served, a tenant may challenge the landlord’s claims against him, but he must do so within 7 days of the date he/she is served with the affidavit. The tenant may respond either orally or by filing an “answer” with the court.
The entire process can take several weeks to complete. Uncontested cases are decided on the papers presented to the court (i.e., judgment on the pleadings). Contested cases will be tried before a magistrate. If the tenant does not appear at the trial, a Writ of Possession will issue immediately and the landlord will be awarded a full money judgment against the tenant. Landlords who do not appear for trial in a contested case risk having their case dismissed.
Landlords and Tenants Need to Know Their Rights
Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, it is important that you know what your legal rights are when it comes to renting real property. We have over 30 years’ of experience in real estate and we can help you with all your real estate needs. We have offices in Cumming Georgia, and we serve clients in Atlanta as well as a number of counties throughout Georgia including: Clayton County, Cobb County, Dekalb County, Douglas County, Fulton County, and Paulding County. To schedule your free phone consultation, call us at: 770-888-7707. Or you can contact us here.