Georgia is a state that’s pretty friendly to landlords. We don’t have strict rent control laws, it’s fairly easy to evict a tenant who isn’t paying rent, and as long as you follow all state, federal, and local fair housing and habitability laws, you can have a pleasant and profitable experience as a landlord.
There are some pretty strict requirements in the state when it comes to security deposits, however. It’s easy to make a mistake when it comes to returning security deposits, and you may find your tenant is disputing what you’ve charged their deposit.
You’ll need to document everything, and be flexible when necessary. You don’t want to find yourself in court because even if you’re sure you’re right, the process of a security deposit dispute is time consuming and often expensive.
Here’s what you need to know about handling security deposit dispositions in Atlanta.
Inspecting Your Atlanta Rental Property
A final inspection of the property is required after your tenants have moved out. This is your opportunity to assess the condition of your rental home and compare it to the condition it was in before your tenants took possession.
Take detailed notes and if there’s damage, make sure you take photographs so you’ll be able to back up your claims of damage. If a tenant decides to contest what you’ve found or dispute the amount of the deposit that’s returned, you’ll want to be able to show why you withheld funds.
Withholding Money from a Security Deposit in Georgia
How do you know what can be lawfully deducted from a security deposit after a tenant moves out? Here are some of the reasons you can keep all or part of a deposit:
Unpaid rent and any penalties that come with late or unpaid rent. If your tenant leaves owing back rent or late fees, you can apply the security deposit to that balance
Unpaid utility bills and overdue accounts
Damage that exceeds normal wear and tear
Any costs incurred when a tenant abandons the property before the lease term ends
If you evict a tenant, you can keep the deposit to pay for any overdue rent and also any costs incurred to remove and store the tenant’s personal property after the eviction is complete. Security deposits can also be used to cover court costs during an eviction.
Wear and tear is the responsibility of the Atlanta rental property owner. You cannot withhold money because you found tiny nail holes in the walls or scuff marks on the carpet from where furniture rested.
Timelines for Security Deposit Returns
Georgia law requires landlords to return a tenant’s security deposit within one month of the tenant moving out. If you’re going to withhold any money from the deposit, you need to send your tenant an itemized list of the charges and an explanation of why you’re keeping that money.
Make sure you get a forwarding address from your tenants before they depart so you can send the deposit back within the required timeframe.
If you need help deciding how to manage the security deposit disposition, contact Clients 1st Property Management Specialists.
The Clients 1st Team brings you decades of combined real estate industry experience and over 30+ years of experience in property management in metro-Atlanta and the surrounding areas. Our award-winning team provides quality, reliable services for our homeowners, buyers, sellers, tenants and investors.