What Is an Illegal Eviction in Georgia?

While the legal process for evictions in Georgia is relatively straightforward, there are strict rules about how a landlord can seek eviction. In particular, a landlord cannot attempt to directly or indirectly force the tenant to leave by any means other than the legal process. The landlord must also serve notice before beginning legal proceedings.

Self-help

Self-help evictions are any evictions a landlord attempts to carry out outside of the legal process and court system. As with most states, self-help evictions are illegal in Georgia. This not only means that landlords are barred from changing the locks or removing property, but are also barred from indirect attempts to force an eviction by disconnecting utilities such as power or water. Doing so can lead to a fine of up to $500.

Invalid Reasons

A landlord can only seek eviction for three reasons: failing to pay rent on schedule, violating a lease condition or refusing to leave the property after a tenancy has concluded. A landlord cannot seek eviction for other reasons, such as retaliation for a tenant making a complaint to a public agency or joining a tenants' association.

Invalid Notice

Before beginning proceedings, a landlord must serve the tenant with a notice known either as a demand for possession or a notice to quit. Unlike many states, there is no specific requirement for the time period covered by the notice, though it is possible a subsequent court hearing will look unfavorably on a landlord who gives too short a notice period.

Although the law does not specifically say how the notice should be delivered, it will make the case much easier if the landlord uses a written notice and a method where delivery can be proven, such as registered mail.

Failing to Follow Procedure

Once a landlord has determined a tenant has failed to respond to the notice, the landlord must follow a strict legal procedure. This involves filing a "dispossessory affidavit" with the magistrates court of the county where the property is located; the court preparing a summons (known formally as a "dispossessory warrant") that is served on the tenant by the local sheriff; the tenant having seven days notice of a hearing; the hearing, if ruling in favor of the landlord, issuing a writ of possession to the landlord; and finally the landlord asking the sheriff to execute the writ -- that is, to carry out the eviction.

Two separate seven-day periods are important in this process. During the seven days between the summons being served and the hearing, a tenant who is behind with rent has the right to pay the outstanding rent plus late fees and court costs, which will end the legal process and lift the threat of eviction.

Once the landlord receives the writ of possession, the tenant has seven days before the sheriff can carry out eviction. During this time the tenant has the right to freeze the process by filing an appeal to a higher court, though the tenant may have to pay money into court as a deposit against losing the appeal.