Landlord's Notice to Quit due to Nonpayment of Rent and the Eviction Process in Georgia

A legally valid eviction notice, also known as a notice to quit, to the tenant is a crucial step in the eviction process for non-payment of rent; however, it is not the only step. A detailed overview of the eviction process in Georgia is outlined below for further understanding.

1. Review the Lease Terms

When addressing or initiating an eviction, the initial step is to review the lease agreement. It is imperative that the landlord adheres to the terms and conditions outlined in the lease with regards to notice and termination procedures.

2. Confirm the Landlord Meets the Essential Elements for Eviction Based on Nonpayment of Rent

To execute an eviction in the state of Georgia successfully based on nonpayment of rent, the landlord, as plaintiff, must establish the following:

  1. The plaintiff must demonstrate legal ownership of the property or proper authorization from the legal owner to proceed with the eviction.
  2. A legally valid rental agreement must be in place between the plaintiff and the defendant.
  3. The defendant must have failed to fulfill their obligation to pay the amount of rent specified in the rental agreement.
  4. The plaintiff must have properly served the defendant with a notice to quit.
  5. As of the date of the notice, the defendant must have been in arrears for the amount stated in the notice.
  6. The defendant must still be in possession of the property.
These are the essential elements required for an eviction based on nonpayment of rent. Eviction based on other grounds may have different requirements.

3. Provide Eviction Notice to the Tenant and Demand Possession

If a tenant fails to pay rent by the first day of the month, a landlord may provide the tenant with an eviction notice. This notice can be issued immediately upon the rent becoming delinquent. Should the tenant fail to vacate the premises or pay the outstanding rent, the landlord may then file an affidavit with the court to initiate a dispossessory proceeding, also known as an eviction lawsuit, under Georgia Code Annotated § 44-7-50.

Under Georgia law, there is no specific period that a landlord is required to wait between serving an eviction notice to a tenant and filing an eviction lawsuit. However, it is generally considered best practice for landlords to provide a minimum of three days' notice before initiating legal proceedings to allow the tenant to either pay the outstanding rent or vacate the premises.

4. Initiate an Eviction Proceeding through the Filing of a Disposessory Affidavit

If the tenant fails to vacate the premises, the landlord may file a dispossessory affidavit under oath in the magistrate court of the county in which the rental property is located. Dispossessory actions are typically filed in magistrate court due to their simplified process; however, they may also be filed in municipal, state, or superior court. For information about the court system in Georgia and to locate courts in your area, refer to the Georgia court system.

The affidavit must include the following information:

  1. The name of the landlord
  2. The name of the tenant
  3. The reason for the eviction, such as non-payment of rent
  4. Verification that the landlord has demanded possession of the property and that the demand has been refused
  5. The amount of rent or other monies owed, if applicable.
Once the landlord has commenced a dispossessory action based on non-payment of rent, the landlord should carefully consider whether to accept rent from the tenant (if offered by the tenant), as doing so would provide the tenant with a defense in the eviction proceedings and may result in dismissal of the landlord's case. Alternatively, the landlord may request that the court order the tenant to pay rent into court if the eviction process takes longer than two weeks before a final decision is reached. The amount due can be proven by submitting a copy of the lease or evidence of past payments. If the tenant fails to pay, the court can issue a writ of possession, resulting in immediate eviction.

Additionally, under Georgia law, a landlord is able to seize a tenant's property in order to recover unpaid rent as soon as it is due, if the tenant attempts to remove their property from the premises.

5. Properly Notify the Tenant of the Dispossessory Affidavit

Once the dispossessory affidavit has been filed, it must be legally served to the tenant. In most counties, the sheriff will be responsible for this process. Service can be achieved through one of the following methods:

  1. Personal delivery to the tenant
  2. Delivery to a competent adult residing in the unit
  3. Tack and mail, which involves tacking a copy of the summons on the door of the tenant's home and sending a copy by first-class mail to the tenant's address. It is important to note that if the date the summons was mailed is different from the date it was tacked on the door, the tenant may be able to argue that service was insufficient. Tack and mail is only permissible if no one was home when the sheriff attempted personal service. If service is achieved through tack and mail and the tenant does not file an answer or appear in court, the court can still order the tenant to vacate, but it cannot award rent or other monetary damages to the landlord.