Managed by the Georgia landlord tenant laws, Security deposits are essential for landlords who want to protect their rental properties. As much as any landlord would prefer that their property without damage from their tenants. But the unexpected happens, and even the most reliable of tenants can have accidents.

Charging your tenant’s, a security deposit is an excellent way to protect yourself and your rental property from potential damage or unexpected costs caused by a tenant. A security deposit can be used to help cover the cost of utilities or rent that a tenant may have failed to pay, excessive cleaning costs, or repairs to property damage.

But trying to understand laws around a security deposit can be a challenge. Each state has their own rules and regulations that must be followed when it comes to charging, holding, using, and returning a security deposit.

With this in mind, we at Liberty Real Estate Services have provided the following basic information on the rules a landlord in Georgia must follow when dealing with security deposits.

Georgia’s Security Deposit Limit

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Many states have a limit for how much a landlord can charge their tenant for a security deposit. But Georgia does not have a legal limit to how much a tenant can be charged.

A landlord may also charge their tenant a pet deposit. But the Federal Fair Housing Act, states that the landlord may not charge them a pet deposit if the animal in question is a registered service animal.

If said service animal causes any damage to the property, the tenant is responsible for the cost of repairs.

Storing a Tenants’ Deposit

Many states have specific rules for how a landlord may hold a security deposit. In Georgia, there are two legal options when it comes to storing these funds. A landlord may either:

  • Put the funds into an escrow account which will only be used for security deposits. Be sure to communicate the details in writing to your tenant so they can be aware of where their security deposit is being held. A landlord is not required to pay interest on a security deposit.
  • A landlord can post a surety bond in the total amount of security deposits (from all tenants in your rental properties), or $50,000, whichever number is lower.

If a landlord does not follow the above regulations when it comes to holding a security deposit, they will altogether lose the right to use or keep any of the funds at the end of the lease.

Written Notice After Receiving a Security Deposit

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A landlord in Georgia is not legally required to provide tenants with a receipt for their security deposits.

Reasons To Withhold a Tenant’s Security Deposit

A security deposit can only be used once the lease is over or has been terminated. These are the circumstances in which a landlord can keep or deduct funds from their tenants’ security deposit:

  • To cover missed rental payments
  • To cover missed utility payments or excessive cleaning fees
  • The cost of any repairs for any damage that was caused by the tenant, including abuse of property, or negligence.
  • Loss or damage caused by a tenant’s abandonment of the rental property

A landlord is not always legally permitted to use a tenants’ security deposit to cover repairs on the property. If the damage was caused by normal wear and tear that comes with occupying a space, or if the damage was present prior to the tenant moving in, a landlord may not use their tenants’ security deposit to repair said damage.

A Walk Through Inspection

If a landlord intends to withhold some or all of a tenant’s security deposit at the end of a lease. They must provide a walk through inspection of the property within 3 days of the tenant vacating the property.

A complete, itemized list of all damages in the rental home, including the estimated costs of repairs, must be provided to the tenants. If said list is not provided, the landlord forfeits all rights to use any amount of the security deposit.

In response, a tenant may request to verify the list of damages by conducting their own inspection of the property within 5 days of vacating. If the tenant verifies the list and takes responsibility for the damage, both the landlord and the tenant will sign the document and it will be considered official evidence of the property’s damage.

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Security Deposit Refund in the State of Georgia

In Georgia, a landlord has 30 days from when the tenant vacates the rental property to return their security deposit.

A security deposit and a written notice of any deductions made can be sent to a tenant in any reasonable method. If there is not a more practical method, a landlord can mail the deposit with a written statement of the deductions to the tenant's last known address by first class mail.

But if the written statement and the returned security deposit balance are returned to the landlord and if the tenant is unreachable despite the landlord’s best efforts, the funds will be forfeited. 90 days after the initial mailing, if the security deposit remains unclaimed, the landlord will gain the right to retain all of the funds.

If you evict your tenant, they may not be entitled to a refund, depending on the situation. In such a case its best to contact a legal professional or property managment company.

Bottom Line

If a landlord refuses to return a tenants’ security deposit, or what’s left after deductions, then they will be required to pay three times the amount that has been withheld, in addition to the tenants’ legal fees regarding the case.

But if the landlord can prove that the failure to return the security deposit was an honest mistake that was not their fault, then they will only be required to pay the amount that was withheld.

If you have any specific questions, you can hire a qualified Georgia attorney or seek the help of an experienced property management company like us at Liberty Real Estate Services.

Disclaimer: This article should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in Georgia. Laws can frequently change, and this post may not be up to date at the time that you read it. Please contact us if you have any questions in regard to this content or any of your other property management needs.