Evictions have started in Georgia. Here’s what you need to know.

Evictions have started in Georgia. Here’s what you need to know.

Katie Lyon
 | 

The coronavirus pandemic is creating an undeniable renters crisis. It parallels the avalanche of foreclosures which followed the Great Recession. 

A survey from the US Census Bureau revealed that nearly one third of Georgians are now unsure about their ability to pay for housing. This is to be expected, since nearly 45 percent of respondents lost income during the last few months.

If you are struggling to pay your rent in Georgia, you are not alone. 

Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, alongside Columbia Professor Emily Benfer, has been tracking the effect of these economic losses on renters. 

Their housing policy scorecard places Georgia among the worst states for its government response to these impending evictions.

Fortunately, the majority of renters are protected by a federal moratorium on evictions. The CARES Act gives renters until July 25th before any eviction proceedings can begin.

But those tenants unprotected by the CARES Act, evictions have started as of June 12. 

 

How do I know if I am protected by the CARES Act? 

The federal CARES Act protects renters, even those in states like Georgia, from being evicted until July 25th. 

But it doesn’t protect everyone. 

The CARES Act only covers properties that are owned or backed by a federal agency.

The National Housing Law Project found that around 70% of renters are covered. 

But a number of illegal eviction filings from landlords of federally-backed properties have been reported. These tenants should be protected against eviction. 

This is why the Georgia Supreme Court issued a ruling, effective May 4th, that requires landlords to submit proof that their properties are not covered by the CARES Act in order to file eviction notices.

If you are covered by the CARES Act, your timeline on eviction looks a bit different. 

 

I’m not protected by the CARES Act. What is my timeline on eviction?

For the other 30%, the CARES Act’s protections do not apply. These renters must rely on state and city-wide protections to slow down the eviction process during this pandemic.

Georgia’s only statewide protection against eviction for that 30% of renters is an extension on court deadlines until June 12th. This means landlords and tenants have until then to respond to court notices. 

After June 12th, eviction proceedings can continue in Georgia unimpeded:

  • Eviction hearings may be scheduled and held over teleconference or in person.
  • Eviction judgments may be decided.
  • 30 days after receiving your initial written notice, law enforcement can escort you out of your unit and lock you out. 

Your best option is to try to work out an agreement with your landlord before any of the legal procedures begin.

For more resources, including sample letters to send to your landlord for seeking rent relief, visit Court Buddy’s Landlord-Tenant resources page. 

 

What do legal eviction proceedings look like in Georgia?

Even if you have not paid your rent, you still have rights as a tenant.

Georgia law requires landlords to follow this process in order to evict:

  • If you are late on rent, and have not contacted your landlord about it, you may receive a Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. This means your landlord is planning to file through the courts to have you evicted for non-payment. 
  • You should receive a summons from the court asking you to respond to the charges of non-payment of rent. You usually have seven days to give a written response, but for now you have until at least June 12th
  • Within two weeks of responding to the charges, you will likely have a court date set. These may be held over video conferences or in person. 
  • In court, you will be asked to respond to the charges of non-payment of rent. If the judge sides in the landlord’s favor, they will be granted possession of your rental in one week.
  • You may be escorted and locked out after the seven days are over. 
 

What do illegal eviction proceedings look like?

Your landlord may not do the following in an attempt to force you out early:

  • Lock you out without giving 30 days notice
  • Turn off your utilities 
  • Remove your door, windows, or possessions

Many landlords, growing impatient, attempt to evict tenants using these illegal “self-help” measures.

Several landlords in Atlanta have also made attempts to evict tenants who should be covered by the CARES Act, despite their protections legally lasting until July 25th.

 

Should I hire an attorney to represent me in my eviction case?

When it comes to eviction cases, an estimated 90% of landlords have lawyers, while only 10% of tenants do. 

If you want to challenge your eviction, you have a much greater chance of winning your case if you are represented by an attorney.  

Studies by the Harvard Law Review and the Law & Society Review found that between 51% and 75% of tenants without legal counsel lost their cases in court.

If you are looking for a more affordable lawyer specializing in landlord - tenant law, LawChamps can help you find one. 

 

What other resources are available to me?

If you have more questions, and want to ask an attorney for free, LawChamps is hosting another virtual Legal Meet-Up focused on Landlord - Tenant issues. It will be held on June 26th over Zoom.

The top 5 questions and answers on landlord - tenant issues from LawChamps' first Legal Meet-Up in May is now online. 

You can also read up on more advice about renting in Georgia during the coronavirus.

Feel free to utilize LawChamps' self help resources or reach out to us for more help.

This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.

 
Katie Lyon

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