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Curbed U's Guide to Renting in Atlanta: Part II

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Things to Know Once You've Found a Place

Georgia Tenant’s Rights

Georgia law does not regulate the details of the relationship between a landlord and a tenant but it does set forth some general rules and guidelines. Without a designated governmental agency, disputes between parties are settled in the court system. At the federal level , a landlord is required to notify a tenant about potential lead paint hazard and abstain from discriminatory practices. You may be in a hurry to get moving, but commit plenty of time and attention when reviewing the lease before anything gets signed. That document is your best protection if potential conflict arises.

Duties of a landlord
• Keeping unit in safe and habitable condition; making repairs
• Meeting local building codes
• Providing smoke alarms
• Responding truthfully when asked direct questions about the property (i.e. “I heard a murder happened in here...)
• Must provide notice if the property is prone to flooding
• Depending on city/county code, may be required to furnish appliances
• May enter premises without prior notice in order to cure a dangerous condition, prevent damage, or respond to an emergency.

Duties of a tenant
• Must not have the same visitor over too many rights, or have a visitor’s mail delivered to unit, otherwise the visitor might be considered an unauthorized occupant
• Responsible for maintaining smoke alarm
• Has right to the exclusive use of the leased premises, other than the right of the landlord to enter in emergency situations

Here's a link to the Georgia Tenant Landlord Handbook.

What Should and Shouldn’t Be In A Lease Agreement

There is no “standard” lease, although they tend to be similar. A lease is a contract between landlord and tenant that sets the rights and responsibilities of both parties. A lease agreement doesn’t have to be written (this is known as a tenant-at-will), but it’s in your best interest to have one that’s written.

Some of the common details found in a lease include:

• A description of the unit, or property if it’s a house, identifying included appliances and heating and cooling sources
• The time period for which you’re renting and the date when the lease ends
• The amount of rent, when it’s due, and any late fees that may be charged
• The amount of the security deposit
• If any utilities are provided by the landlord and included in the rent
• How tenant repair/emergency requests are handled
• Under what conditions a landlord can enter the property and what notification must be given

Keep an eye out for red flags, including:

• An extremely long lease with penalties for early termination
• Automatic rent increases
• References to rules which are not provided to you
• Anything that makes you responsible for repairs
• Lease terms which state the landlord can evict you without going to court and using the dispossessory process
• Terms that require you to pay the landlord for utilities rather than the utility company (although the rent can include utilities)