While every landlord hopes that he or she doesn’t have to face going through the eviction process, you may encounter it for one reason or another. It’s a good idea to be well-informed and prepared for this situation by familiarizing yourself with the eviction process in Georgia, because it may not always be straightforward.
There are three bases for eviction in Georgia:
- non-payment of rent
- failure to give up the premises at the end of the lease
- breach of the lease or the rules in it (but only if the lease provides for termination in the event of such a breach).
Before filing for eviction (dispossessory action), Georgia landlords must first send a demand letter stating the past due rent owed or that the tenant vacate the rental property. It is only when the tenant refuses to leave and refuses to remedy the situation that caused the breach that the landlord can file a dispossessory action.
|If the tenant refuses or fails to give up possession or remedy the situation, the landlord or the landlord’s agent or attorney must go to the magistrate court and file a dispossessory affidavit under oath. The affidavit states:
• The name of the landlord,
• The name of the tenant,
• The grounds for the eviction,
• Verifies that the landlord has demanded possession of the property and has been refused
• The amount of rent or other money owed, if any
The magistrate court will issue a summons to the sheriff where the property is located. There are three ways in which the summons can be served:
- Delivered personally to the tenant at home;
- If the tenant is not home, it will be delivered to an adult who resides at the home and understands the importance of the summons; or
- The summons will be tacked on the door of the home and on the same day sent by first class mail to the tenant’s address. This type of service is appropriate only if no one is at home when the sheriff attempts personal service.
If the tenant fails to respond at the end of the seventh day, as listed on the summons, the lawsuit is in default. The court can then grant the landlord a writ of possession and the sheriff can remove the tenant immediately.
If the tenant answers the summons, a trial of the issues will be held in accordance with the procedures of the appropriate court. The tenant is allowed to remain in possession of the premises. The landlord may request that the court order the tenant to pay rent into the registry of the court. If payment is ordered, non-payment of rent into the registry could result in the court issuing a writ of possession and the tenant becoming subject to eviction.
Once an answer has been filed, and a hearing has been held, the court will issue its decision. If the court rules for the landlord, the tenant will typically be ordered to move after ten days and may be ordered to pay the past due rent. The landlord and tenant may also be required to go into mediation before the court hearing to see if some agreement can be reached. If an agreement is reached the agreement is filed with the court and signed by the Judge. If the agreement is breached the court will issue a writ of possession which will allow the landlord to proceed with the eviction.
A residential landlord must always use the dispossessory process even if the lease says otherwise. Any landlord who evicts you without following these procedures may be guilty of trespass and subject to actual and punitive damages.