RENTAL PROPERTY MANAGEMENT AND THE LAW

 

What laws govern the management of residential rental property in Georgia?

The Georgia law which governs the management of residential rental property is contained in the Official Code of Georgia, Title 44, Chapter 7. Georgia law does not regulate the details of the landlord-tenant relationship but it does set forth the general rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. Your local public library may have the Official Code of Georgia and, if not, may be able to direct you to such material in your community. Specific federal laws govern a landlord's duty to notify renters of lead paint and to avoid discrimination in housing. Besides federal and state law, the management of residential rental property is regulated by local housing codes. A landlord should contact their local county commission or city hall to find out if their community has a housing code and how it is enforced.

There are real estate licensing laws which apply to persons who manage property for the owner and are not full-time employees of the owner. The Georgia Real Estate Commission is a state agency which licenses real estate agents and brokers. Questions about real estate licensing laws and practices or complaints against licensed real estate agents or brokers, should be directed to the Commission at 404-656-3916.

 

I rent a room in a house. What are my rights?

Your legal rights depend on whether you are a tenant, guest or boarder. A tenant is one who pays rent for the exclusive right to use the premises, usually for a defined period. A boarder or guest is one who pays a fee for the right to use a room and receive services, generally for a short period of time.

If you are not a tenant but are a guest or boarder, you have limited protection under the law. If the hotel owner or boarding house owners wants a resident to move he need only give notice equal to the time for which the occupancy is paid. For example: if payment is made weekly, one weeks notice to vacate is all that would be required. However, if payment is past due no notice is required.

 

Is my landlord required to provide me with a smoke detector?

Only if the county or city in which you live has a building or housing code that requires that every dwelling built after July 1, 1987 have a smoke detector. Not all counties and cities have building codes. To find out if your local code requires smoke detectors contact your fire marshal, local government or code enforcement.

 

Are landlords required to provide appliances such as refrigerators or stoves for use in their units?

There is no state law requiring landlords to furnish appliances such as refrigerators or stoves. You should check your lease to see if such appliances are part of your lease agreement. It is important to inspect the unit prior to signing a lease to see what appliances are included and to see if they function.

 

A tenant wants to review the rental file the landlord maintains on the unit. Is the landlord required to allow a tenant to review the rental file?

No, those files are the sole property of the landlord or management company, and the tenant has no legal right to demand access to these files. However, if the file is used by the landlord against a tenant in court, the tenant can access this information through court procedures.

 

Is there a limit on the number of persons who can reside in a one bedroom apartment?

Georgia law does not regulate the number of persons who can reside in a housing unit. However, county or city ordinances would apply and may impose such limits.

 

Must I inform prospective tenants that my rental property contains lead-based paint?

Yes, federal law requires that most property owners who rent residential property built before 1978 disclose all known lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards in the home and make available reports on lead present in the home. The lease should reflect that such notice was given and contain a warning of the danger posed by lead paint and lead paint hazards. The landlord should keep copies of such leases for three years to prove compliance with federal law. Landlords must provide each new tenant and each renewing tenant a copy of the EPA pamphlet "Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home." Landlords seeking more information or copies of the pamphlet can call the National Lead Information Clearinghouse at 800-424-LEAD.

 

What information can a landlord request on an application? Can landlords charge an application fee?

Yes, a landlord can charge an application fee. The following information can be requested on a rental application: name, social security number, current landlord's name; address and phone number, employer's name; address and telephone number, applicant's job title and annual income, employment information going five years back, relative references, identity of nearest relative, release for credit report and signatures of applicants.

 

I recently inherited property which I do not want to sell at this time. If I decide to rent the property, what will my responsibilities be as a landlord?

If you decide to rent the property, you will be responsible for keeping the unit in safe and habitable condition, making repairs, selecting tenants and collecting rent from tenants. Once a property is leased, the tenant has a right to use, occupy and enjoy the premises in accordance with the lease or rental agreement. A written lease which clearly sets out the duties of both the landlord and the tenant provides the best protection for both parties. Your actions as a landlord are controlled by the terms of the lease and applicable federal, state and local law. There are a variety of books available at book stores and libraries which describe in general terms the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a landlord. You might also wish to consult with an attorney or real estate agent, experienced in managing rental property, for help in drawing up a lease and understanding a landlord's rights and responsibilities.

 

I own six (6) houses which I rent. It seems someone is calling all the time about repairs. I want to continue to rent the property but I am tired of managing it by myself. What kind of professional is best suited to help me?

A licensed real estate agent with experience in rental property management would have the experience and training considered most desirable to help you. Under Georgia law, any person who manages property must have a Georgia real estate license unless that person is the owner of the property; a full-time employee of the owner; or, if the owner is a limited partnership, the general partner of that limited partnership. While property management tasks may be delegated to licensees or employees affiliated with a broker, it is the real estate broker who would be officially designated as the owner's agent. Property management generally includes leasing, collecting rent, keeping records, making repairs, and carrying out preventive maintenance.

 

I own a six unit residential apartment building which I rent. There is a parking lot with designated parking places. Unauthorized persons are parking in the lot. Can I have those cars towed?

If you own the parking lot and have posted notice, you can have the unauthorized cars removed. The notice must be visible and state that unauthorized vehicles may be removed at the cost of the owner and where the towed vehicle can be recovered. You must use a towing and storage firm with a Public Service Commission permit and licensed by your local government. The towing and storage firm must also have a secured impoundment lot.