In Georgia, it is customary to send a non-paying tenant a demand letter that demands payment of rent. Many of my clients, many potential clients, and certainly most tenants do not understand the demand letter’s actual functions. The demand letter, of course, pushes the tenant to pay up, and it is pretty effective. Otherwise, the demand letter simply meets a customary –not statutory- requirement for anyone who needs to evict a non-paying tenant. The demand letter is a legal check box. Seriously.
Despite the simple intent of the letter, some weird notions about demand letters seem to pop up, both from clients and from judges. I have had clients want copies of my demand letter; I do not comply with this request because, well, it’s mine, and I have paid my attorneys to help me come up with various letters for various counties. I never give those things away because they are proprietary. Additionally, clients do not understand that the demand letter is a custom made check box that is essential to the case, and yet as great as that letter is, I cannot make the tenant actually go to the post office and pick up the letter and open it; moreover, clients do not understand that most judges know that the tenants will lie about receiving (read - saying they never received) that letter if they do open it. After all, delinquent tenants lie about everything; why would this letter be treated any differently?
And that brings me to magistrate judges and to some of the judges’ expectations of the demand letters that we send. In my experience, no judge has ever thrown out one of my cases because a tenant said they did not get the demand letter; that is because I always have proof I sent that letter. However, these same judges require very specific language in that letter for each of his or her respective courtrooms. I know. That statement hurts my head, too. If the judge does not like a demand letter that is acknowledged and then gets discussed in the courtroom, the judge may toss out the case. Mind boggling.
So, my company has various proprietary demand letters for each county. These letters have been crafted from my experience and knowledge of the judges there. I don’t share letters with clients because those letters took me time and money to craft with a team of experts and attorneys. Those letters are often so effective that the tenant pays after the tenant gets the letter. And in Georgia, a letter is a customary requirement of the law. The tenant receiving the letter in hand (or even acknowledging that the letter got there) is not necessarily a requirement as long as I can prove I sent the letter and show the judge what the letter said (again the letter must be pleasing to that particular judge). And if the tenant presents that letter in court, the judge better not find a flawed letter, or you the client may be starting from scratch – case over.
Know this; the demand letter is required in Georgia, although there is no statute for it. The demand letter must be sent properly to ensure that the judge accepts that the requirement has been met. The letter, should it be presented in court, had better please the judge. If you try your own demand letter, know your county magistrate judge.
Keep it simple, keep it legal.
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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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