The landlord shall place the tenant’s security deposit in an escrow account established only for that purpose in any Georgia bank or lending institution.
Georgia has specific laws concerning security deposits for property managers. Landlords and property managers must comply with O.C.G.A §§ 44-7-30 through 44-7-37, except for "natural persons" landlords owning ten or fewer rental units either individually or together with a spouse or minor children that are exempt under O.C.G.A § 44-7-36.
Georgia does not limit the amount of a security deposit a landlord can hold. The term “security deposit” includes but is not limited to damage deposits, advance rent deposits, and pet deposits. Such term shall not include nonrefundable fees, money, or other consideration which are not to be returned to the tenant or which were to be applied toward the payment of rent or reimbursement of services or utilities provided to tenant.
Written Checklist Required
Prior to tendering a security deposit, the tenant shall be presented with a comprehensive list of any existing damage to the premises. The tenant shall have the right to inspect the premises to ascertain the accuracy of the list prior to taking occupancy. Landlord and Tenant shall sign the checklist and this shall be conclusive evidence of the accuracy of the list but shall not be conclusive as to latent defects. If the tenant refuses to sign the list, the tenant shall state specifically in writing the items on the list to which he/she dissents and shall sign such statement of dissent.
Escrow Account For Security Deposit
The landlord shall place the tenant’s security deposit in an escrow account established only for that purpose in any Georgia bank or lending institution. The security deposit shall be held in trust, and the landlord shall inform the tenant in writing of the location of the escrow account. The landlord shall not be entitled to retain any portion of a security deposit if the security deposit was not deposited in an escrow account.
Allowable Charges; Return of Security Deposit
Within one month after the termination of the lease or the surrender and acceptance of the premises, whichever occurs last, the landlord shall return to the tenant the full security deposit. No security deposit shall be retained to cover ordinary wear and tear which occurred as a result of the use of the premises for the purposes for which the premises were intended, provided that there was no negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises by the tenant or members of the tenant’s household or their invitees or guests. In the event that actual cause exists for retaining any portion of the security deposit, the landlord shall provide the tenant with a written statement listing the exact reasons for the retention thereof. The landlord shall be deemed to have complied with the law by mailing the statement and any payment required to the last known address of the tenant via first class mail.
Move Out Inspection
Inspection List Within three business days after the date of the termination of occupancy, the landlord shall inspect the premises and compile a comprehensive list of any damage and the estimated dollar value of such damage. The tenant shall have the right to inspect the premises within five business days after the termination of the occupancy in order to ascertain the accuracy of the damage list. The landlord and tenant shall sign the list, and this shall be conclusive evidence of the accuracy of the list. If the tenant refuses to sign the list, the tenant shall state specifically in writing the items on the list to which the tenant dissents and shall sign such statement of dissent. If the tenant terminates occupancy without notifying the landlord, the landlord may make a final inspection within a reasonable time after discovering the termination of occupancy.
Dispute The tenant may dispute the accuracy of the final damage list by initiating an action in any court of competent jurisdiction in Georgia to recover the portion of the security deposit which the tenant believes to be wrongfully withheld for damages to the premises. The tenant’s claims shall be limited to those items to which the tenant specifically dissented in accordance with this section. If the tenant fails to sign a damage list or to dissent specifically in accordance with this section, the tenant shall not be entitled to recover the security deposit or any other damages under O.C.G.A § 44-7-35, provided that the landlord delivers the damage list required under this section and the list contains written notice of the tenant’s duty to sign or to dissent to the damage list.
If the landlord fails to provide each of the written statements within the time periods specified in the law, the landlord shall forfeit all of the landlord’s rights to withhold any portion of the security deposit or to bring an action against the tenant for damages to the premises. If the landlord fails to return any part of the security deposit which is required to be returned to the tenant pursuant, the landlord shall be liable to the tenant in the amount of three times the sum improperly withheld plus reasonable attorney’s fees.