Rent Payments (Answers to Common Questions)
Authored By: Georgia Legal Services Program®
- When Is Rent Due?
The date the rent is due should be stated in your lease or agreed upon by the landlord and tenant. The rent must be delivered to the landlord on the date it is due. There is no law which specifies any grace period or designates a rent due date. Rather, a grace period is a matter of agreement between the landlord and tenant. It allows the tenant extra time in which to pay the rent without breaching the lease or rental agreement. The landlord and tenant may agree to any grace period they choose or they can agree not to have a grace period. In addition, a grace period may be created by the landlord's conduct of accepting late rent over the course of several months without charging a penalty.
- Can a Landlord Charge Different Rents for the Same Type of Unit?
A landlord can charge different rates for identical apartment units if both the landlord and the tenant agree to the rental rate. However, the landlord cannot base the difference in rent on the tenant's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or family status. Also, a landlord may not advertise rates at a certain rent level only to rent them at a higher rate.
- The Landlord Will Not Accept Only Half of the Rent. Why Not?
Under most rental agreements and leases, the tenant agrees to pay a specified amount of rent on a certain date. Failure of the tenant to comply with such provisions amounts to a breach of the lease. Consequently, the landlord is not required to accept a portion of the rent unless the landlord has established a pattern and practice of doing so. If the landlord has accepted partial payments in the past, he can not refuse partial payments without first giving notice that he will only accept full payment. If the landlord does accept the rent in the reduced amount due to needed repairs, the tenant should get a memo from the landlord showing the rent for the month is considered "paid in full".
- Can My Landlord Charge a Late Fee?
If a tenant fails to pay the rent by the required date, the landlord may charge a late fee if the lease states that a late fee will be charged. If the lease does not state that a late fee will be charged, the landlord may not charge a late fee. The amount of the late fee should be stated in the lease.
- My Landlord Gave Me Notice That His Records Show That I Did Not Pay Rent for July; it Is Now October. I Paid Rent for August, September and October and My Landlord Never Mentioned That I Owed Him Back Rent. Can My Landlord Evict Me Now Because He Claims I Didn't Pay July Rent?
If you can find proof that you paid July's rent (a canceled check or money order receipt), you should provide copies to your landlord, along with a letter explaining your position. If your landlord remains convinced that you did not pay July's rent, he may be able to sue you to collect the money but cannot seek to evict you because of nonpayment. Your landlord's acceptance of rent in August, September and October prevents your landlord from seeking to evict you for a failure to pay July rent. Your landlord can sue you in magistrate court to collect the amount of July's rent but he cannot sue to make you move through the dispossessory process.
- My Rent Check for $500 Was Returned by the Bank for Insufficient Funds. My Landlord Wants to Charge Me a $25 Fee and $300 to Cover the Fees He Incurred Because My Check Bounced. Is this Right?
Yes, Georgia law (O.C.G.A. 13-6-15) provides that any person, including landlords, who receive "bad checks" can demand payment in cash within ten days. If your rent check was refused by the bank due to a lack of funds, your landlord can charge a returned check fee and charge you for damages. If you do not pay the charges, your landlord can sue you to recover the fee and damages. The service charge for the returned check may not exceed $30 or 5% of the amount of the check, whichever is greater. You will also have to pay the amount of any fees the landlord was charged by his bank due to the check being dishonored. If the landlord files a lawsuit, he can recover up to double the amount of the check for damages he suffered, but nomore than $500 plus any court costs. Additionally, if the check was written with the knowledge that it would not be honored by the bank, the check writer could face criminal prosecution.
- How often can a private landlord raise the rent in a year? Is there a limit on how much rent can be raised each time an increase is made? What protection do renters have against rent increases?
The answers to these questions will be found in your lease. If there is a lease, rent can only be increased as allowed under the terms of the lease. The lease determines whether or not and how often the landlord can raise the rent. Georgia law does not limit the amount by which the rent can be increased. If the tenant does not have a lease, the landlord must give sixty (60) day notice before any rent increase. Such increases may occur as frequently as the landlord desires as long as the sixty (60) day notice is given. The best protection against rent increases is a long term lease that prohibits or restricts rent increases during its term. When a lease expires, the landlord can offer a new lease at an increased rent without prior notice.