The best way to handle evictions in Atlanta is to avoid them when you can. Most landlords dread the idea of evicting a tenant, and that’s because they can be time-consuming and expensive, especially if you don’t have any rent coming in while you’re trying to remove a resident from your property. A good way to lower your eviction risk is by screening thoroughly and enforcing your lease. Conduct regular inspections and make sure you have consistent rent collection policies.
Even if you screen tenants well and keep your eyes on the property, bad things can happen to good tenants. If they suddenly cannot or will not pay the rent anymore, it’s important that you understand the legal process and follow it closely.
There are several reasons you might evict an Atlanta tenant. You can evict for nonpayment of rent, lease violations, criminal activity at the property, or because there’s excessive property damage at the home. The most common reason to evict a tenant, however, is because that tenant isn’t paying rent.
Lease Requirements and Rent Collection
The eviction process in Atlanta actually begins with your lease. If you don’t have a strong and enforceable lease, you could make the eviction process harder on yourself than it needs to be. Never download a generic lease from any website. You want a lease that’s specific to Georgia law so that it will hold up in court if you find yourself trying to evict a tenant.
Rent collection is also important and should be documented. If you find yourself in court, you’ll want to show the judge what your rent collection process is and how you know that your tenant hasn’t paid. In Atlanta, rent is usually due on the first of the month unless your lease says differently. Georgia law will allow you to consider it late if you haven’t received it on the first day of the month. You can even file the eviction notice with your tenant on the day after rent is due, if it isn’t paid.
While you’re legally entitled to filing an eviction notice right away, we recommend that you try talking to your tenant first. Communication is important, and can offer you some alternatives to eviction. Call or text your tenants to remind them that rent is late and to find out when they plan on paying it. Perhaps your tenants simply forgot, or maybe their next paycheck isn’t for another day or two, so they’re going to pay late. Remember to remain calm and professional. Calling up to angrily demand your money isn’t going to help you collect it. Be willing to listen, work out a payment plan if necessary, and get your rent paid.
Providing an Eviction Notice in Atlanta
In Georgia, you can give your tenants a verbal eviction notice. However, we recommend that you put it in writing. This will give you a stronger legal standing if you need to go to court, and it will also help you to organize your case. Include all the pertinent information in your eviction notice. That will be the date that it’s served, the name and address of the tenant, and the name and address of the landlord. You should state the reason for the eviction and when you want the tenant to be out of the property. Include how much rent is owed, including late fees, and reference how that rent should be paid if the tenant wants to avoid eviction.
Provide a time period in which you expect the rent to be paid. Three to five days is a good rule; your eviction notice can state that either rent must be paid in three days or the tenant must move out. Otherwise, you’ll continue the legal proceedings to evict the tenant.
Serve this notice to the tenant in person or through the mail, and document how you delivered it and when you delivered it.
If your tenant pays the rent after receiving this notice, accept the money and move on. If the tenant moves out, you’ll be able to immediately turn the property over and find a more reliable tenant to rent it. If your tenant does not move out or pay, you’ll have to file an affidavit with the court. This will start the legal eviction process, which is called a dispossessory proceeding in Georgia.
Evicting an Atlanta Tenant: Dispossessory Proceedings
You cannot physically evict a tenant in Atlanta without a court order. Don’t change the locks or turn off the utilities, and don’t go over to the property to confront the tenant. These are called self-help eviction proceedings, and they are illegal. Instead, follow the required legal proceedings, which starts with the filing of a Dispossessory Affidavit. Landlords can file this affidavit in the county in which their rental property is located. Go to the magistrate, the state court, or the superior court.
In your affidavit, you can request that the tenant be removed from the property. You can also include a demand for all the unpaid rent and any late fees that remain overdue. Court fees and filing fees can also be included.
The landlord is responsible for serving the tenant a copy of the affidavit and summons, but you can have the sheriff serve it for you. Let the clerk of the court know that you’d like this service, and pay the appropriate fee. Personal service of the dispossessory warrant will be attempted first. If the sheriff cannot serve the tenant in person, the warrant can be served to any person who is residing at the premises and is old enough to accept the service. If this doesn’t work either, the sheriff can use the tack and mail process. In this case, the dispossessory warrant and summons is posted on the door of the house, and then mailed to the tenant’s address.
If the tenant wants to file a response, he or she has seven business days to do that. This response will outline an argument for why you should not be allowed to evict. If the tenant does file a response, a court date will be set in which each side will have the opportunity to make their case. Usually, the court date will be the following week, but scheduling depends on the courts and their workload.
When you go to court, be organized and prepared. You’ll want to have a copy of the lease, all of your accounting statements, and any documentation that shows the tenant has not paid rent as agreed upon in the lease. You should also have any communication between you and your tenant, including a copy of your eviction notice.
In a case where the tenant does not file a response, you will receive a default judgment from the court, which means the tenant can be removed as soon as the judge signs the order.
Filing for a Writ of Possession
The Writ of Possession will help you have the tenant physically removed from your property. Once you are awarded a default judgment or the judge rules in your favor during a dispossessory hearing, you’ll be entitled to the Writ of Possession. Once you have it, the sheriff or constable will come to your property to physically remove the tenants and their belongings. Hopefully, the tenants will have moved out before this becomes necessary. But, have the sheriff scheduled and a locksmith ready to change the locks so you can take possession of your property back.
Things to Remember During an Atlanta Eviction
While Georgia law does not have any specific requirements on things like serving a written eviction notice, it’s important to have your own consistent policies and procedures in place. This is the only way to ensure you’re evicting a tenant legally and fairly. We recommend that you work with a professional Atlanta property manager or an attorney who has experience in landlord and tenant law. While you’re not required to have professional legal representation, it can help you to ensure you do everything correctly and in the best interests of your property.
You can also stop the eviction proceeding at any time. If your tenant has been served with the dispossessory warrant and summons but comes up with the rental payment and all the outstanding fees before your court date, you can accept the payment and avoid the eviction.
To help yourself understand your responsibilities when it comes to evictions, take a look at the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook. You’ll find a lot of useful information in there that pertains to rental laws and how to handle things like a tenant who isn’t paying rent. You’ll educate yourself on the basic tenant rights, and you’ll find a whole section on evictions.
If you need any additional resources, please be sure to contact us at Specialized Property Management. Our eviction rate is generally pretty low because we’re careful about our screening process and proactive when it comes to enforcing the lease. However, when we do need to evict tenants from our Atlanta rental properties, we do so efficiently and legally, saving our owners from a lot of headaches and financial risk. Contact us, and we’ll talk about your unique situation.