How To Handle a Security Deposit Like an Atlanta Professional Property Manager
As an individual landlord without a professional Atlanta property manager, you might be more inclined to cut corners here and there. While this might be tempting, we can assure you that every extra step you take to cover your finances and legal rights is a step in the right direction. In this article, we’re going to give you tips for handling security deposits on Georgia properties like a professional Atlanta property management company.
First of all, there are no limits on the amount of money that can be requested as a security deposit. Generally, one month of rent is required. However, security deposits can also be used to collect funds for pets on the contract. If you aren’t sure about where to set your security deposit amount, you should check with your local government to see if there are any laws that you aren’t aware of. Some states might impose restrictions on security deposits. As we mentioned earlier, there aren’t generally any restrictions in Atlanta, Georgia, but a simple phone call will provide you with the peace of mind in knowing you’re within your legal rights.
Before you receive your tenant’s security deposit, Georgia law requires you to do a move in inspection and have your tenant sign the inspection form. Hopefully you'll be taking lots of pictures so you can use them to compare property condition when the tenant moves out.
When you receive a security deposit from a tenant, Georgia law requires that you place it into an escrow account if you have more then 10 rental properties. You will need to let your tenant know about the account, which bank it's in, if it's a interest bearing account or not and if it is, who will be retaining the interest. You also have another option for stowing away your tenant’s security deposit - surety bonds. The bond must be posted in the county where the property is located, and the amount can’t exceed $50,000. Before you accept a renter’s security deposit, you must provide him or her with a list of previous damages to the rental property. However, if you own 10 or fewer rental properties, you are exempt from this regulation.
In Georgia, there are several reasons why you could keep a tenant’s security deposit:
- the rent wasn’t paid
- there were unpaid pet fees
- there was damage outside of normal wear and tear
- the tenant had unpaid bills for repair or cleaning with third parties
- the utilities weren’t paid
These are just a few of the reasons why you might consider keeping a portion of a security deposit. To handle this professionally, you’ll need to carefully document your calculations. Provide this itemized list to your tenant, and make sure to keep a copy of the list for yourself.
In Georgia, you have 3 days to inspect the property after the tenant terminates his or her occupancy. You are required to list each and every damage, along with the cost to fix these problems. During this time, the tenant also has the right to inspect against your list. Make sure to define which problems are outside of normal wear and tear, even supporting your facts with photos if necessary. See below the actual 2015 Georgia Code 44-7-30 through 37 regarding Rental Security Deposit returns.
Here's what the law reads: "Georgia Landlord Tenant law requires the landlord to inspect the premises for defects and compile a list of damages and their estimated dollar value. The inspection and the list must be completed within three business days of termination of the occupancy. The list must then be furnished to tenant within five business days from termination of the occupancy. See Georgia Law 44-7-33(b). If the landlord is late, he loses the right to retain your security deposit even if the apartment was left in shambles. 44-7-35(b). All landlords regardless of the number of units they own, must return the remaining security deposit to the tenant within one month after termination of the lease or surrender and acceptance of the premises, whichever occurs last. "
Within one month of the lease’s termination, you are required to return the remainder of the security deposit.
Handling security deposits like an Atlanta professional property manager means carefully adhering to these rules. Make sure to document all of your claims carefully to protect yourself, and keep an open line of communication with your tenant to ensure that all aspects of receiving and disbursing the security deposit are taken care of.