Lease agreements dictate how you approach Atlanta rental management, and everything about your relationship with your tenant. But have you ever read over a lease and felt confused? Leases are filled with legal terms that can be hard to understand, but it is important to know exactly what the lease says. We are here to help you understand what is contained in a lease agreement, what can affect the agreement, and what happens when a lease is violated or terminated.
Understanding Lease Agreements
Because lease agreements are legal documents, signed by both the property owner and the tenant, it is important to read it closely before signing. A lease will outline the specific rights, responsibilities, and obligations of both tenant and owner. In every lease agreement you should find:
- The names of the landlord and tenant
- The address of the property to be leased
- The term of the lease
- Total rent owed each month
- Rent due dates, when the rent is considered late, and late fees
- How and where the rent is to be paid each month
- Security deposit information
Some aspects of the lease may differ from property to property such as:
- Pet deposit or pet rent instructions, including which fees are refundable
- Who is responsible for certain maintenance aspects such as lawn care
- How to contact the landlord or Atlanta rental management company for maintenance or emergencies
- Whether parking is included on the property
Under Georgia law, a lease must contain several disclosures. The name of any party, such as a property manager, who works on behalf of the landlord should be disclosed on the lease agreement. Other disclosures include:
- Flooding disclosure
- Existing defects and damages on the property
- Disclosure regarding previous residents
- Lead-based paint disclosure
A lease may seem long, but every part of it is important. In order to protect yourself and your property you, and your tenant should read over the entire lease before signing. If you are confused or uncomfortable with any part of it, do not hesitate to bring this up with your property manager.
How Disabilities Affect Lease Agreements
The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion, familial status, disability, or national origin. How does this affect lease agreements? The Act states that property owners and their Atlanta rental management companies must make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations vary based on individual needs, but here are a few common examples:
- Many people living with disabilities use service animals to help with daily tasks. The Department of Housing and Urban Development explains service animals as “an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability. An assistance animal is not a pet.” Even if your property is a “no pet” property you may be required to alter the lease to allow for your tenant’s service animal.
- If an individual uses a wheelchair or has difficulty walking they may request accommodations for their disability. This can include building ramps to access the unit or an assigned parking space close to the entrance of the unit.
- A tenant with a mental disability is afraid to leave the house, but his Atlanta rental management company has a policy that rent checks must be delivered in person to the office. An example of reasonable accommodation for this tenant would be allowing him to mail his rent check.
There are times when a reasonable accommodation must be made after the lease has been signed. For example, two months after moving into a rental home an accident leaves a tenant in a wheelchair and he requests a ramp up the front steps. This type of request can be made at any point during the lease. Additionally, landlords are required to allow their tenants to make reasonable modifications at the tenant’s expense, if these modifications can be removed when the tenant moves out.
While the law is in place to protect those with disabilities, it does recognize that landlords should not experience hardship as a result of it. If the landlord can prove a request would cause undue financial or administrative hardship, he or she is exempt from the accommodation. To learn more about the ins and outs of reasonable accommodation, talk to your Atlanta rental management company.
When a Lease Agreement is Disputed
A lease is a legal agreement that must be kept by all parties involved. What happens if one side of the agreement does not abide by the terms of the lease? While rare, it does happen. If a tenant is in violation of the lease your first step is to respectfully point out the violation. For example, a tenant may buy a dog without paying a pet deposit or telling the landlord. Bring a copy of the lease and point out how the tenant is in violation of its terms. Oftentimes this step is all it takes to correct the violation and move forward. The tenant may choose to either pay the pet deposit and/or increased rent, or get rid of the pet. If the tenant refuses to comply with the terms of the lease, there may be grounds for eviction, which we discuss below.
What happens when a landlord or Atlanta rental management company is in violation of the lease? The most common example of this is when a property falls into disrepair. According to the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook, “residential landlords have a duty to keep a unit in a safe and habitable condition and in good repair.” A landlord is responsible for keeping the structure safe and habitable, and the utilities in working order. If a problem occurs it is up to the tenant to report the problem immediately so the landlord can respond in a reasonable amount of time. If a landlord does not respond to their tenant’s maintenance request, and the request makes the rental home uninhabitable, the tenant has several options for moving forward:
- The tenant can sue the landlord for damages incurred from failure to repair the home.
- The tenant can repair the damages then deduct the costs from their monthly rent payment.
- The tenant can contact a housing code inspector to condemn the property and inform the landlord he or she has broken the terms of the lease.
- The tenant can move out, claim “constructive eviction,” and stop paying rent to the landlord or Atlanta rental management company.
- The tenant can seek compensation for time spent in the home while it was in disrepair, this may include cash or credit toward future rent payments.
The condition of the rental property can be a tricky subject, and the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook advises tenants to proceed with caution when disputing the disrepair of a property. As a property owner, the best way to avoid disputes about the condition of the property is to perform regular inspections and preventative maintenance.
While unpleasant, evictions are sometimes necessary. When a tenant stops paying rent, or stays in the rental home beyond the lease term, you can take legal action with an eviction. Evictions must follow a specific process, and can be tricky to navigate. It is important to note that the tenant is allowed to stay in the residence, with the utilities on, until a court decision is made. At our Atlanta rental management company, we do our best to avoid evictions by placing high-quality tenants, dealing respectfully with all our clients, and clearly communicating responsibilities. In Georgia the process for eviction is as follows:
- Surrender Possession and Vacate: Notice must be given to the tenant to surrender possession of the property and vacate the premises.
- Dispossessory Affidavit: If the tenant refuses to vacate the property, the landlord can file a dispossessory affidavit in magistrate court stating the details of the broken lease terms. The affidavit is then served to the tenant, usually by a sheriff.
- Answering the Affidavit: The tenant has 7 days to answer the affidavit in court or in writing.
- Hearing: After the tenant files an answer, a hearing is held in which a judge rules for or against the landlord.
- Writ of Possession: When the court rules in favor of the landlord, the landlord must then request of a writ of possession, ordering the tenant to move out within 7 days. The landlord is responsible for the costs associated with eviction.
The landlord and tenant both have the option to appeal the ruling within 7 days if the ruling was not in their favor.
How to Avoid the Headache of Atlanta Rental Management
Knowledge of lease terms and disputes, fair housing laws, and the eviction process are all part of the day to day work of a property manager. Making small mistakes in property management can lead to costly fines and sore tenant relationships. Our clients save time and money, and avoid the headache of managing a rental property when they choose to let us take care of their rental home. To get your rental quote, call our office today at 404-596-8454.