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What should I know about paying rent?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Paying rent in Georgia Tips Resources

Paying rent in Georgia

What should I know? +

Contents


What is rent?

Rent is a tenant's regular payment to a landlord for the use of property. A lease usually specifies what the amount of rent will be. The date the rent is due should be stated in your lease or agreed upon by you and the landlord.

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What are my responsibilities?

You must pay your rent on the date stated on the lease and agreed upon by you and the landlord. 

 

A grace period is a matter of agreement between you and the landlord.  There is no law that says there must be an agreement that allows you extra time to pay the rent without breaching the lease or rental agreement. Without an agreement, you do not automatically get 5 extra days to pay the rent without a penalty.

 

The language of the lease should state the form in which the rent is to be paid to the landlord. If the lease does not state that rent can be paid by check, the landlord can require that you make payment in cash.

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What are my landlord’s rights?

If you fail to pay rent as agreed in the lease, the landlord may have the right to dispossess or evict you. If your lease contains a grace period clause, you have that extra time to pay your rent without being subject to eviction.

Although a landlord has the right to evict someone for not paying the rent, they cannot: 

  • throw a tenant off the premises nor 

  • can they try to force tenants out by shutting off heat in winter. 

 

A landlord must follow the legal procedure for eviction.

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What are my landlord’s responsibilities?

The landlord cannot create differences in rent prices based on the tenant's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or family status.

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How do I protect my rights?

Always get receipts for your rental payments or otherwise make sure you have proof of rental payments.

 

If you pay your rent by putting it in a drop-box or slot, keep copies and tracking numbers for your form of payment.

 

If your landlord has refused to take your rent when it was due, make sure you have evidence to prove it.  If your landlord refuses your rent, they cannot file an eviction against you for nonpayment. If the landlord does file against you, you will need to file an answer explaining to the court that you offered the full rent payment but it was refused. This does not apply if your rent was late when you offered it to the landlord or if you offered your landlord less than the full amount owed.

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What can I do? +

Contents


Can I do anything about rent increases?

Georgia law does not limit the amount by which the rent can be increased.

 

If you have a written lease: 

  • The rent can only be increased as allowed under the terms of the lease. The lease will decide whether the rent can be increased or not, and how often the landlord could raise the rent. 

  • The lease may provide information about raising the rent to cover increases in utility costs if they are included in the rent. 

  • Be sure to find out which utilities the rent covers, if any.

 

If you do not have a written lease: the landlord must give 60 days’ notice before any rent increase. The landlord can increase the rent as often as they want as long as the 60 days’ notice is give

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Can my landlord charge different rent 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, a landlord may not advertise rates at a certain rent level only to rent them at a higher rate.

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What if I cannot pay my rent on time?

Read over your lease carefully. If your lease contains a grace period clause, you would have the time specified in the lease to pay your rent. If there is a late fee, the amount should be stated in the lease. 

 

If your lease states that a late fee will be charged, the landlord may charge a reasonable late fee if you fail to pay the rent by the due date. If the lease does not state that a late fee will be charged, the landlord may not charge a late fee. 

 

If you fail to pay rent as agreed in the lease, the landlord may have the right to dispossess or evict you.

 

A landlord can evict a tenant the very first time the rent is not paid on time, but some landlords are willing to give people a second and even a third chance. A landlord who repeatedly accepts late rent may give up the right to evict tenants who do not pay rent on time. Continually accepting late payments in effect alters the terms of the contract. But the landlord can regain the right to timely payments if they provide notice that they plan to enforce the original rent due date in the future.

 

Although a landlord has the right to evict someone for not paying the rent, they cannot: 

  • throw a tenant off the premises nor 

  • can they try to force tenants out by shutting off heat in winter. 

A landlord must follow the legal procedure for eviction.

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What if my landlord refuses to accept my rent?

 If your landlord has refused to take your rent when it was due, make sure you have evidence to prove it.  If your landlord refuses your rent, they cannot file an eviction against you for nonpayment. If the landlord does file against you, you will need to file an answer explaining to the court that you offered the full rent payment but it was refused. This does not apply if your rent was late when you offered it to the landlord or if you offered your landlord less than the full amount owed. 

 

If you are trying to pay rent in partial payments, the landlord is not required to accept it unless they have accepted partial payment in the past. If the landlord has accepted partial payments before, they cannot refuse partial payments without first giving you notice.

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What if my landlord claims I owe back rent?

If your landlord says you have not paid rent, but you believe you have, you should give them proof of payment. Proof can be a canceled check or money order receipt. Then, give copies to your landlord, with a letter explaining your side of the story. 

 

If your landlord still says you are missing rent, they may be able to sue you to collect the money. But, your landlord cannot evict you because of nonpayment. If your landlord accepted rent in the following months after the missing rent, they can’t evict you for failure to pay from an earlier month. Your landlord can sue you in magistrate court to collect the missing amount of rent, but they cannot evict you.

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What happens if my rent check bounces?

Georgia law says that landlords who receive “bad checks” can demand payment in cash within 10 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.

 

The service charge for the returned check cannot 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 because of the bad check.

 

If you do not pay the charges, your landlord can sue you to recover the fee and damages. They can recover up to double the amount of the check for damages suffered, but no more than $500 plus any court costs.

 

Additionally, if the check was written and you knew that it would not be honored by the bank, you could face criminal prosecution.

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What if my landlord continues to accept rent after my lease expires?

In general, when the lease requires a renewal and the term ends without a new contract, the tenancy has terminated on the last day of the lease term. If the landlord accepts rent and lets you stay in the unit, a tenancy-at-will has been created (a tenancy without a written lease). The old lease still applies to you, except that the landlord can terminate or change the terms (including rent increases) with 60 days notice. You can terminate the lease with a 30 day notice to the landlord.

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What happens if I rent a land lot for my mobile home and I fail to pay my rent?

 

If you have not paid your rent and your landlord obtains a writ of possession for property, you have 10 days to move the mobile home off the property. If you do not remove the mobile home within those 10 days, the landlord can have the mobile home moved at the expense of you. Whoever moves the mobile home can place a lien on the mobile home for the moving fees and storage charges. Georgia law limits the amount of storage fees that can be charged to $4.00 per day. The holder of the lien can foreclose on the mobile home to recover the cost of moving and storing the mobile home.

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Tips

Follow the "buddy system." If you have a friend or neighbor in your apartment complex, go together to pay your rent. That way, you can act as witnesses for each other if your landlord claims that either of you never paid. After paying, make sure that your landlord gives you a rent receipt. Do not pay in cash unless the landlord gives you a receipt. Keep copies of all cancelled checks and receipts showing that you paid.

Resources

 

Last Review and Update: Oct 31, 2019