What you need to know about renter's rights in Georgia

In the relationship between landlords and tenants, the most important document is the rental agreement. It literally details the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant.

But what’s actually in a rental agreement, and what does it mean for you?

A rental agreement is a contract between a landlord and a tenant that gives the tenant a bundle of rights in exchange for the tenant promising to pay a monthly rental. Sometimes called a lease, it is a very important document.

Renter rights come from two sources: the law and the rental agreement.

Let’s look at both sources:

Renter's rights derived from the law

  • A clean, decent, safe place to live, with heat, electricity and adequate plumbing. Air conditioning is not required;
  • The ability to negotiate with the landlord the terms of a lease agreement, including rental amount and term;
  • The right to stay in the rented property for the term of the lease unless a judge decides the tenant has to vacate for breaking the lease;
  • The ability to enjoy privacy during the occupancy without unnecessary entry by the landlord, also known as quiet enjoyment;
  • The freedom from all forms of discrimination due to race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin;

A "For Rent" sign sits in the front yard of a home in Huber Heights, Ohio, U.S., on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. (Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In addition, the rent is entitled under Georgia law to receive a prompt refund of security deposit at the conclusion of the lease agreement and then receive a full accounting of any deductions made from security deposit.

Georgia law requires almost all landlords to inspect the property within three business days of a tenant moving out. The landlord must deliver to the tenant a complete itemized list of damage in the unit and estimated costs of the same.  The tenant can then dispute that list in court if he so desires.

In addition to these renters rights granted by law, there are also the right of occupancy, in wich the landlord gives up the right to use the premises for a specified period of time - the term of the agreement.

There are a number of other lesser renter rights in most Georgia leases, but those are the big ones

Because the rental agreement is so important in the establishment of renter rights, it is surprising to FOX 5 real estate expert John Adams that most renters don’t take time to read the document.  

Part of the problem is that most leases are written by lawyers for lawyers, but Adams' advice is for every renter to read their rental agreement and to do that before they sign on the dotted line.

Adams' bottom line: Know what you are getting into before you sign.

Atlanta native John Adams has been a real estate broker and investor in residential real estate for the past four decades.