Most landlords in Georgia require their tenants to sign a lease and provide a security deposit prior to moving into their rental property. This is because a lease is a legally binding contract that offers a myriad of benefits to both the landlord and tenant.
Having leases to secure your tenancy is important. This helps ensure you will not have issues with tenants paying rent while they occupy your house.
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 agreement early and cause distress to the landlord.
In this article, we’ll review what rights Georgian landlords have, per the state's Landlord-Tenant Law, if their tenants choose to break a lease agreement.
Common Reasons Why Tenants Break Lease Agreements
When a tenant terminates a lease with their landlord, 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. This may include continuing to give rent for the property to the landlord.
Reasons for Breaking an Agreement that are Not Legally Justified
The below reasons for the breaking of a lease are not considered legally justified. Should a tenant choose to break a 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.
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 with your landlord in Georgia.
As such, you, as a landlord, can still require that your tenants pay all rent due per the terms of the agreement that all parties signed.
Change in Relationship
If your resident 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.
As a landlord, you have certain rights based on state of Georgia Rent Laws and can penalize your resident for breaking the lease early due to a change in their romantic relationships.
Legally Justified Reasons for a Tenant to Break Their Lease in Georgia
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. Examples of breaking a lease legally are as follows:
The Contract Permits an Early Termination
Some landlords include an early termination clause in their lease to help transition from one tenant to the next rent period. To legally break the lease before the end of the rent period, all the tenant needs to do is fulfill the requirements of the early termination 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.
In the event a tenant is a victim of landlord harrasment, Georgia law states that they are able to legally break a lease early without fear of an early termination fee.
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.
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 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 civil or criminal family violence 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.
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.