The statewide security deposit laws in Georgia only apply to landlords who own more than ten rental units. Landlords who hire an outside property manager may also be subject to following these laws even if they own ten or fewer rental units. Here are seven basic security deposit rights tenants have in Georgia.
Georgia Security Deposit Limit
Georgia does not place a limit on how much a landlord can collect from a tenant as a security deposit.
Rules for Storing the Security Deposit
A landlord in Georgia must choose one of two options when storing a tenant's security deposit :
- Escrow Account- The landlord can place a tenant’s security deposit in an escrow account in a bank or lending institution that is regulated by the state of Georgia or the United States Government.
- Surety Bond- A landlord can instead decide to post a surety bond for the full amount of the tenant’s security deposit, or $50,000, whichever is less. This bond must be posted at the superior court in the county where the property is located. The landlord will serve as principal on this bond.
Failure to Store Deposit Correctly:
- Landlords who fail to store a security deposit according to the above procedures may forfeit their right to withhold a portion of the tenant’s security deposit.
Security Deposit Receipt
Georgia tenants have the right to written notice both before and after receiving a tenant’s security deposit.
- Before Receipt of a Security Deposit: The landlord must provide the tenant with a list of all existing damage and defects in the unit. The tenant has the right to inspect the unit to judge the accuracy of these claims. If the tenant agrees, the landlord and tenant must sign the document and it will serve as proof of the condition of the property upon tenant move-in.
- If the tenant does not agree with the claims, the tenant must indicate which items on the list he or she disagrees with and then sign a statement of dissent.
- After Receipt of a Security Deposit: After receiving a tenant’s security deposit, a landlord must inform the tenant in writing as to the location of this deposit.
Failure to Provide Written Notice:
- Landlords who fail to follow the above procedures may forfeit their right to keep a portion of the tenant’s security deposit.
Reasons Georgia Landlords Can Keep a Security Deposit
In the state of Georgia, a landlord may be able to keep all or a portion of a tenant’s security deposit for the following reasons:
- Nonpayment of Rent
- Fees for Late Payment of Rent
- Nonpayment of Utility Bills
- Repair or Cleaning Bills Incurred By the Tenant With Third Parties
- Unpaid Pet Fees
- Damage in Excess of Normal Wear and Tear
- Any Additional Costs Associated With the Tenant Abandoning the Property
Right to a Walk Through Inspection
Landlord 3 Days:
- In the state of Georgia, a landlord has three days after a tenant terminates occupancy to inspect the unit for damages. The landlord must make a list of damages and the approximate cost to repair them. The landlord must provide the tenant with this final list of damages. This list must also make it clear, in writing, that the tenant must agree to the damages listed or dissent to the claims.
Tenant 5 Days:
- Within five days of terminating occupancy, the tenant has the right to inspect the property with this list. If the tenant signs this list, he or she is agreeing to the damages listed. If the tenant refuses to sign the list, he or she must write out the items they disagree with and sign a statement of dissent.
- The tenant may take the landlord to court to recover the cost of any damages they have indicated they disagree with in their statement of dissent. If a tenant has not signed a statement of dissent, they forfeit their right to recover any money withheld from their security deposit as listed in the final damage notice.
Failure to Give Notice:
- If a tenant does not give a landlord notice before they move out, the three-day inspection notice is lifted and the landlord must only inspect the unit within a “reasonable time” after they discover the tenant has moved out.
Returning Security Deposit in Georgia
- Georgia landlords are required to return a tenant’s security deposit within one month of lease termination. If the landlord is not returning the security deposit in full, the landlord is required to provide the tenant with an itemized list of any damages or reasons for deductions in the security deposit and the approximate cost.
Mailed to Last Known Address:
- This notice and the portion of the deposit they are returning to the tenant must be sent via first class mail to the tenant’s last known address. If the tenant is not able to be located within 90 days of sending this notice (i.e. the letter is returned and the landlord makes reasonable effort to find the tenant), the security deposit will become the property of the landlord.
- If a landlord attempts to illegally withhold a tenant's security deposit, he or she may have to pay the tenant up to three times the amount withheld, unless it is determined the landlord accidentally withheld the portion, in which case, they will only be liable for paying the tenant back the amount mistakenly withheld.
Security Deposit When Selling Property
If you sell your property, you are responsible for transferring all security deposits to the new owner or for refunding the security deposits to the tenants.
What Is Georgia’s Security Deposit Law?
The code which governs the security deposit in the state of Georgia can be found at Georgia Code Annotated §§44-7-30 to 37.