Atlanta, GA family law attorney Judith Delus Montgomery talks about the different ways she’s able to represent tenants in specific issues.
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Let’s say you live in the state of New York. New York has a lot of protection of tenants. Well Georgia some would say would be the complete opposite. They do not protect tenants. They actually protect the landlords. The way that the laws are written they favor the landlord. And so a tenant going into court most times will lose in a fight against the landlord just because of the way the laws are written. And so you want to make sure that you have an idea of what your rights are.
One is that the landlord has an absolute duty to make repairs to your home. That means if the plumbing goes bad, if the AC stops working, if the heater stops working the landlord has an absolute duty to make repairs, and they have to make those repairs within a reasonable amount of time. So let’s say it’s July 15th, right, in Atlanta, which tends to be very hot. And your heater goes out. I mean the AC goes out. Let’s say the AC goes out and it’s been two weeks since you contacted the landlord, and they still haven’t sent anyone out to fix it. Well you might have a suit against the landlord for the amount of time that you had to succumb to the heat without AC.
But as a tenant you have to do certain things. One, you have to give the landlord notice. If you don’t advise the landlord that your AC has gone out how would they know? In addition to that you may have to put it in writing. A lot of folks don’t know that. When folks go to sign a lease they don’t read the fine print, and the fine print in most leases that I have either written or that I have read always indicate that you have to give the landlord notice, and most times it has to be in writing. If you call the landlord or you went into the property manager’s office and you made a complaint, that’s not sufficient when it comes to a lawsuit against the landlord. You have to make sure that you’ve put that in writing, whether it be by text message, or e-mail, or a letter. So that’s how we educate and let tenants know these are their rights.
Another example is that you’ve moved out of the property. You’ve cleaned the property. You’ve made sure that you returned it in the order that it’s supposed to be in, and the landlord has not submitted your security deposit. Well here in the state of Georgia within 30 days the landlord has to put something in writing to the tenant saying I am keeping your security deposit because of X damage, or I’m returning this portion of your security deposit, but I’m withholding this portion. The landlord has to put that in writing, has to send that to the forwarding address, and they have to give the tenant an opportunity to respond to either fix the issue if there is an issue or any damages, or the tenant at that point in time may have the option to go after the landlord and seek their full security deposit back because the landlord failed to send out that notice.
Not only is the tenant entitled to their security deposit, but they may be entitled to treble of their security. That means three times their security deposit because of the landlord’s failure to file the security deposit statute. And so those are the things that a lot of times tenants do not know, and that’s how we try to educate and inform tenants of their rights here in Georgia.