A tenant could break their lease before it expires, leaving you without rental income. So as a Georgia landlord, some of the most important laws you will need to understand are the ones that govern when your tenant can break their lease.
In this blog post, we at Rent Appeal will take you through the legal reasons under the landlord-tenant laws for which a tenant may be able to terminate their lease early. Also, we will show you the more common, illegal reasons why a tenant could break their lease.
Rental Agreements in Georgia
As a landlord, when you write up your lease agreement, it is important to cover every relevant topic clearly. This includes any penalties that your tenant may face should they unjustifiably break your lease.
Your lease agreement should also clearly state the amount of notice needed when ending a periodic lease in Georgia. For both a month-to-month and a yearly lease, the tenant must provide at least 30 days’ notice before breaking a lease.
Additionally, you should include your responsibility to re-rent the unit once the lease has been broken by the tenant. In Georgia, landlords are not required under law to take reasonable steps for finding a new tenant for the rental property.
Finally, you should include the tenant’s right to sublet in the lease. In Georgia, there are no laws preventing your tenant from subletting the unit unless you place a clause within the lease. This clause would make sure that your tenant would be required to get your approval before subletting the property.
Unjustified Reasons to Break a Lease in Georgia
The most common reasons that a tenant breaks their lease are actually illegal reasons. Meaning in this case, the tenant has no legal protection from any legal penalties that they may be faced with, should they break the lease.
The most common reasons include:
- The tenant purchased their own house and breaks their lease to move. In this case, your contract is binding, and buying a property does not allow the tenant to break their lease legally.
- They are moving for work or school. Even though this may be important to the tenant, it has no bearing on your lease agreement and is not a valid reason to break a lease.
- They wish to upgrade or downgrade the property they live in. But is not a valid reason to break a lease.
- They are moving in with their partner. Commonly, tenants may look to leave to move in with someone else, however, this has no impact on the contract they signed with you and it remains valid.
- If you base your lease violation on something that is protected by the Fair Housing Act, this is also considered unjustified.
Justified Reasons for Breaking a Lease in Georgia
In Georgia, there are a few reasons that a tenant can legally break their lease. As a landlord, it’s important to be aware of these reasons as, even though they are less common, you need to understand them.
Active Military Duty
If a tenant is an active member of the military and is deployed or permanently moved, then they may legally break their lease under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. To legally break the lease without penalty, the tenant must do the following:
- Prove that the lease was signed before entering active duty.
- Prove that they will stay on active duty for at least 90 days.
- Provide the landlord with written notice including a copy of their orders to deploy, Permanent Change of Station, or a letter from their commanding officer.
Once the notice has been delivered to the landlord, the earliest the lease can end is 30 days after the beginning of the next rent period.
Unit is Uninhabitable
Georgia has a specific set of rules and requirements to make sure that each rental unit is habitable for the tenants occupying it. So as a landlord, it is important that you stay up to date on all maintenance and repairs that may be needed at your rental home to ensure it remains completely habitable for your tenants.
Early Termination Clause
As a Georgia landlord, you have the opportunity to incorporate an early termination clause into your lease agreements. This provides your tenants an option to break their lease if they pay a penalty fee. Bare in mind that if you do have an early termination clause and require a security deposit, you should consider this when calculating your early termination fee.
Make sure to include the amount of the fee and the amount of notice you will need from the tenant in the lease agreement. This is a great way to protect yourself from the majority of the unjustified reasons that a tenant could break their lease, as they now have the legal right to pay their way out of the lease.
Landlord Harassment or Violation of Privacy
At Rent Appeal, we believe that, as a landlord, you must always respect the privacy of your tenants. This means being aware of and following any rules that may be put in place to protect their privacy.
To protect you in this matter you can outline the rules in the lease agreement that allow you to enter the property with the appropriate notice. The standard notice time for a landlord to enter a rental property is 24 hours.
In Georgia, victims of domestic violence are able to end their leases early. To do this, the victim must acquire a civil or criminal family violence order. Then, the victim must provide you with a written notice that terminates their tenancy, accompanied by the civil or criminal family violence order.
While it’s good to be aware of the justifiable reasons a tenant has to break a lease without penalty, this knowledge will also help you to know what your rights are should a tenant ever attempt to end their lease without a justifiable cause.
If you have any further questions about the laws in Georgia or any other aspect of your property management needs, contact our team at Rent Appeal today! As the premier property management company in Georgia, we can answer any question that you may have from evictions to marketing and everything in between.
Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regard to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.