Georgia law provides a very general duty of landlords to maintain and repair their rental property. The landlord has a statutory duty to keep the premises in good repair and can be held liable to others for damages that arise from defective construction or from failure to keep the premises in repair, per O.C.G.A. §§ 44–7–2, 44–7–13, 44–7–14. However, if a defective condition is caused by the misconduct of the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household, or a guest or invitee of the tenant, then that does not constitute a breach of the landlord’s obligations.
Case law in Georgia has confirmed that the duty to repair does not necessarily extend to a duty to maintain. This means that the landlord must have knowledge of a defective condition before he can be held responsible for fixing it. Therefore, it’s important for a tenant to bring any unsafe conditions to the attention of the landlord as soon as possible.
The tenant has a set of responsibilities as well, chief among them is notifying the landlord of any defective conditions. In general, the tenant must not destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove any part of the premises. This all sounds obvious, but a good rental agreement will set the conditions for the tenant out right and will include the following obligations for the tenant:
- comply with all obligations imposed upon tenants by applicable provisions of all municipal, county, and state codes, statutes, ordinances, and regulations;
- keep the premises clean, sanitary, and in good condition;
- notify landlord immediately of any defects, maintenance issues, or dangerous conditions of which tenant becomes aware;
- be responsible for cleaning and routine maintenance;
- dispose promptly of all rubbish, garbage and other waste; and
- properly use and operate any electrical, gas and plumbing fixtures and keep them as clean and sanitary as their conditions permit.
While some of these responsibilities may be obvious to the landlord, it’s always a good idea to review these with the tenant at lease signing or the beginning of the lease term. No landlord wants an “expectations gap” when it comes to taking care of his property!