RENT PAYMENTS AND OTHER CHARGES

 

Can a landlord charge different rents for the same type of unit?

A landlord can charge different rates for identical apartment units if both the landlord and the tenant agree to the rental rate. However, the landlord cannot base the difference in rent on the tenant's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or family status. Also, a landlord may not advertise rates at a certain rent level only to rent them at a higher rate.

 

How often can a private landlord raise the rent in a year? Is there a limit on how much rent can be raised each time an increase is made? What protection do renters have against rent increases?

The answers to these questions will be found in your lease. If there is a lease, rent can only be increased as allowed under the terms of the lease. The lease determines whether or not and how often the landlord can raise the rent. If the tenant does not have a lease, the landlord must give a sixty (60) day notice of any rent increase. Such increase may occur as frequently as the landlord desires as long as the sixty (60) day notice is given. The best protection against rent increases is a long term lease that prohibits or restricts rent increases during its term. When a lease expires, the landlord can offer a new lease at an increased rent without prior notice.

 

My rent check for $500 was returned by the bank for insufficient funds. My landlord wants to charge me a $25 fee and $300 to cover the fees he incurred because my check bounced. Is this right?

Yes, Georgia law provides that any person, including landlords, who receive "bad checks" can demand, by certified mail, payment in cash within ten days from receipt. If your rent check was refused by the bank due to a lack of funds, your landlord can charge a returned check fee and charge you for damages. If you do not pay the charges, your landlord can sue you to recover the fee and damages. The service charge for the returned check may not exceed $25 or 5% of the amount of the check, whichever is greater. The landlord can recover up to double the amount of the check for damages he suffered, but no more than $500. Additionally, if the check was written with the knowledge that it would not be honored by the bank, the check writer could face criminal prosecution.

 

The landlord will not accept only half of the rent. Why not?

Under most rental agreements and leases, the tenant agrees to pay a specified amount of rent on a certain date. Failure of the tenant to comply with such provisions amounts to a breach of the lease. Consequently, the landlord is not required to accept a portion of the rent unless the landlord has established a pattern and practice of doing so. If the landlord has accepted partial payments in the past, he can not refuse partial payments without first giving notice that he will only accept full payment. If the landlord does accept the rent in the reduced amount due to needed repairs, the tenant should get a memo from the landlord showing the rent for the month is considered "paid in full".

 

I paid the rent on the 5th of the month. The manager charged me a $15.00 late fee. Is there a grace period under Georgia law? What is it?

The date the rent is due should be stated in your lease or agreed upon by the landlord and tenant. There is no law which specifies any grace period or designates a rent due date. Rather, a grace period is a matter of agreement between the landlord and tenant. It allows the tenant extra time in which to pay the rent without breaching the lease or rental agreement. The landlord and tenant may agree to any grace period they choose or they can agree not to have a grace period. In addition, a grace period may be created based on the landlord's conduct of accepting late rent over the course of several months without charging a penalty.

If a tenant fails to pay the rent by the required date, including the time allowed for a grace period, the landlord may charge a late fee if the late fee is provided for in the lease. If the lease does not allow for a late fee, the landlord is not allowed to impose such a fee. The amount of the late fee will be the amount agreed upon by the landlord and tenant in the lease itself.

 

My landlord gave me notice that his records show that I did not pay rent for July; it is now October. I paid rent for August, September and October and my landlord never mentioned that I owed him back rent. Can my landlord evict me now because he claims I didn't pay July rent?

If you can find proof that you paid July's rent (cancelled check or money order receipt), you should provide copies to your landlord, along with a letter explaining your position. If your landlord remains convinced that you did not pay July's rent, he may be able to sue you to collect the money but cannot seek to evict you because of nonpayment. Your landlord's acceptance of rent in August, September and October prevents your landlord from seeking to evict you for a failure to pay July rent. Your landlord can sue you in magistrate court to collect the amount of July's rent but he cannot sue to make you move through the dispossessory process.