Has it been a while since you received a rent check? Are you thinking that you may want to accept at least some of the rent? After all, you are losing money, and your renter does, in fact, owe you money. Right? As tempted as you may be to try and get any bit of money from a renter who has stopped paying, do not take a partial payment. Don’t do it.
In fact, if you have a direct deposit system set up for your tenants, I recommend you reconsider having that convenience because you cannot stop a renter from dropping off partial payments into the account. If your renter gives you a partial payment, send it back (never, ever hold a check). Georgia law states that receiving a partial payment during a rental period defeats a claim for non-payment of rent for the balance of the rental period. That means you have to wait until the next rental period for non-payment to evict. Moreover, if you have established a habit of accepting partial payments and late payments, you may end up voiding that portion of your lease.
Let me say this again. Refuse partial payments; make your tenant pay all or nothing, or you may be stuck with them until their payment gets missed entirely – next month. You cannot even begin eviction for nonpayment of rent until there is no rent. Consider that a partial payment one month gives them another month to miss, then an eviction process that could take weeks. Do yourself a favor, don’t drag out the process of getting someone out over less than the full amount owed; it will cost more in the long run.
Are You Able To Start An Eviction?
You cannot just evict someone. Nope, you can’t. Yes, it is your property, but there are specific things that you, the landlord, must do to conform to Georgia’s legal requirements before you start an eviction. Georgia law clearly defines what must happen to evict a tenant, but often, I run into landlords who have never met the most basic conditions under set forth by Georgia law to start the eviction process. Don’t be that landlord; don’t slow yourself down.
So, this seems like a no-brainer, but it isn’t; you must actually have a landlord/tenant relationship in effect to evict someone from your property. That relationship stands out clearly when someone who lives in your property pays you or your agent monthly rent, even in the absence of a written lease. However, if you have a lease-purchase agreement with a tenant, the tenant may claim to be the owner of the property because he is paying rent to you which he considers to be a type of mortgage. That claim seldom works in court, but it can.
Moreover, you have to tell your tenant that you intend to begin eviction proceedings before you do so. Georgia law defines grounds for eviction (dispossession), and you must state why you plan to evict the tenant. Did your tenant fail to pay rent? Did he violate his lease terms? Did he fail to turn over your premises when his lease ended? Did he create a breach in the lease or violate the terms of the lease? What? Familiarize yourself with the terms of your own lease. Understand it. Make sure you complied with your own lease and then make sure you say why you need them to leave. Proper notice and termination is crucial. And yes, it can be verbal if you want to do that, but written word cannot be misheard or denied. And even if the tenant agrees to leave, you need the coverage of an actual demand letter. Sometimes a tenant expresses the intent to leave just to get you to go away, to put you off, and then they do not move. Demand that they go in a way that you can prove. And do it before starting the eviction. It’s the law.
Finally, understand that Georgia law requires that specific timelines apply to specific types of notice and termination. If your tenant reaches or is about to reach the end of the lease, you must demand that the tenant move after lease termination but before you file the eviction. If your tenant did not pay you, you must demand that the tenant move out after he is late on rent but before you start the eviction. It’s the law.
Again, I recommend getting everything in writing. E-mail is just ok. It is not great. What is better than email? Try an old fashioned letter by certified mail. I often send this letter for my clients and get the certification receipt back simply to start my case against the renter. Sometimes a letter is all it takes for them to leave, sometimes not. But if you have established your relationship, have a reason under the law to evict, and keep your evidence to support that reason; your eviction timeline could stay reasonably short. Keep yourself ready to defend your property. Establish who you are to your tenant; notify them of their breach under the law; write your demand letter; keep records.
Now you are ready to evict.
For more information visit OCGA § 44-7-50
All posts coauthored by
Evict Them For Me and Southern Real Estate Services DO NOT provide any legal advice. We have lawyers to whom we can refer you, or you may seek your own legal counsel.
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