A landlord in Georgia has the legal right to evict a tenant on any of three grounds: failure to pay rent, failure to vacate the premises at the end of the lease period and a breach of the terms of the lease. In the latter case, eviction is only allowed where the lease specifically says that breaching the relevant term can lead to eviction. Forcible eviction requires a landlord to issue a notice to vacate and then, if this is ignored, make a statement to a court, which will issue a summons. At this point the tenant must either vacate or request a hearing into the facts.
Notice to vacate
A landlord must formally request that a tenant vacate a property, and have this request refused, before taking legal action. There are no specific requirements for how this request should be made. To make legal action easier and more likely to be effective, it is best to issue the request in writing and to clearly state the facts of the case, including the specific reason why the landlord has the right to demand vacation. Giving a deadline for the vacation will avoid any confusion or legal uncertainty.
A landlord can only enforce the right of eviction by filing a document known as a dispossessory affidavit at a magistrates court. This is a document made under oath that: states the names of the landlord and tenant, confirms that the tenant has refused to vacate the tenancy (which is why having done so in writing is more effective), states the legal grounds for the eviction and details any sums of money involved, such as outstanding rent.
The magistrates court will then issue a summons to the tenant, either in person, via a responsible adult residing at the same property or, if personal delivery is not possible, by attaching one copy to the property's door and mailing another copy. If the tenant does not respond to the court within seven days, the court's sheriff has the right to immediately evict the tenant.
If the tenant does reply within seven days, the court will hold a hearing to examine any disputed facts of the case. The tenant has the right to remain in the property until and unless the court rules in favor of the landlord, at which point the tenant has seven days to vacate the premises.
If the notice to vacate relates to unpaid rent, the tenant has the right to offer to pay the unpaid rent within seven days of the subsequent summons. Such an offer can only be made once every twelve months, but must normally be accepted by the landlord. In such a case, the tenant must pay the relevant court costs.
A professional writer since 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, John Lister ran the press department for the Plain English Campaign until 2005. He then worked as a freelance writer with credits including national newspapers, magazines and online work. He specializes in technology and communications.