Most landlords in Georgia require their tenants to sign a lease and pay a security deposit prior to moving into their rental property. This is because a lease agreement offers a myriad of benefits to both landlord and tenant.

Usually, lease terms last a year. This means that when a potential resident signs a lease, they agree to abide by the terms of the agreement until the lease expires. However, certain circumstances may arise that could cause a tenant to break their lease early.

In this article, we’ll review what rights Georgian landlords have, per the state's Landlord-Tenant Law, if their tenant chooses to break a lease agreement.

Common Reasons Why Tenants Break Lease Agreements

When a tenant terminates a lease agreement in Georgia, their reason may or may not be legally justified. If the occupant’s reason is not legally justified they are still responsible for abiding by the terms of the lease agreement. This includes paying rent as agreed upon with the landlord.

Reasons for Breaking a Lease that are Not Legally Justified

The below reasons for the breaking of a lease in Georgia are not considered legally justified. Should a tenant choose to break the lease for any of the reasons below, they may be subject to penalties or have to reimburse all rent due based on the terms of the lease agreement, and the landlord may be able to take the tenant to small claims court if they do not comply.

Upsizing or Downsizing

If the resident of your rental property decides they want to move to a larger or smaller home, they are still bound by the terms of the lease for its duration.
lease break in georgia
This means that your tenant will still have to make rent payments for the duration of the lease, or, if they choose to break the lease, they will have to reimburse the landlord all rent due.

New Job or School

Many people will end up relocating for work or school at some point in their life. While this is a common reason people change residences, moving for work or school is not a legally justified reason for breaking a lease in Georgia.

As such, you, as a landlord, can still require that your tenants pay all rent due per the terms of the lease agreement that all parties signed.

Change in Relationship

If your tenant goes through a separation or divorce or chooses to move in with a new romantic partner, they are still bound by the terms of the lease agreement, which includes paying rent.
georgia tenant breaks lease
As a landlord, you have certain rights based on Georgia's Landlord-Tenant Laws and can penalize your tenant for breaking the lease early due to a change in their romantic relationships.

Legally Justified Reasons for a Tenant to Break their Lease

While there are many circumstances that can cause a tenant to break their lease, there are limited legally-justified reasons for a lease break in the state of Georgia. They are as follows:

The Lease Permits an Early Termination

Some landlords include an early termination clause in their lease. In legally breaking a lease, all the tenant needs to do is fulfill the requirements of the clause. Often this clause requires the tenant to provide written notice and recompense with an additional penalty fee.

The Unit becomes Uninhabitable

Georgia, just like most other states, sets the minimum habitation standards that a rental unit must meet. These include having working sanitation facilities, gas lines, electrical, and plumbing. Uninhabitable units are those that do not meet the current health and safety codes.

Landlord Harassment

In the event a tenant is harassed by a landlord, they are able to legally break their lease early.

Active Military Duty

Individuals on active military service are protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This act protects servicemembers against penalties that may arise from breaking their lease due to a deployment or permanent change of station.

According to Georgia law, a servicemember is defined as an individual who belongs to any of the following military cadres:

  • Armed forces of the United States
  • U.S Coast Guard
  • Georgia National Guard
  • Georgia Air National Guard

The SCRA protects servicemembers from the date they enter active duty to between 30 and 90 days later after being discharged.

To terminate the lease in accordance with the SCRA, the tenant must do the following:

  • Providing proof that they signed the lease prior to beginning active military duty.
  • Providing proof that they intend to remain on active duty for the next 90 days or more.
  • Delivering a written notice alongside a copy of their deployment letter from their commanding officer.
    georgia laws breaking a lease
    Even after the tenant has completed the above, the lease termination won't be effective immediately. The earliest that the lease can end is 30 days after the beginning of the next rent cycle.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is also another legally-justified reason a tenant in Georgia can use to break their lease early. For a tenant to qualify for this condition, they must first fulfill certain conditions under Georgia Code §44-7-23.

These conditions include having a criminal or civil family violence court order such as a 12-month Temporary Protective Order (TPO).

Landlord’s Duty to Re-rent after a Tenant Leaves

Unlike other states, landlords and property owners in the state of Georgia aren’t required to mitigate damages after a tenant leaves. This means that, as a landlord, you are not obligated to pay reasonable effort to rerent your unit immediately to a new tenant in order to save your former tenants from having to pay rent until the expiration of their lease.

Bottom Line

If you have a specific question regarding Georgia landlord-tenant laws, the Fair Housing Act, or any other aspect of property management the Drew Doheny Property Management team can help!

We are a quality property management company that is committed to helping protect your investment property, eliminate your stress, and help you boost your rental income.

Disclaimer: This content is in no way intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice
from a qualified lawyer. Also, laws are regularly amended and this article may not be updated at the time you read it.