Georgia Security Deposit Returns & Deductions

Georgia Security Deposit Returns & Deductions

Last Updated: January 5, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Acceptable Deductions
  • Unpaid rent and utilities
  • Unpaid late fees and pet fees
  • Costs of damage
  • Costs due to abandonment
  • Costs due to a breach of lease
  • Costs for cleaning and repair
Return Deadline 30 days
Itemized Deductions Required
Penalty for Late Return 3x amount wrongfully withheld + attorneys’ fees

For laws on security deposit collections and holdings in Georgia, click here.

Security Deposit Deductions in Georgia

In Georgia, the following things can be deducted from security deposits:

  • Unpaid rent, utilities, late fees, and pet fees
  • Costs of damage excluding normal wear and tear
  • Costs as a result of the abandonment of the rental unit
  • Costs as a result of a breach of the lease
  • Cleaning and repair costs and fees

Most states, such as Georgia, do not have a legal limit on how much a landlord can charge for damages except that the charges must be reasonable.

If the cost of the damages exceeds the amount of the security deposit, landlords are entitled to seek additional damages from the former tenant.

What is Considered Normal Wear & Tear vs Damage in Georgia?

Normal wear and tear is damage that is expected when a rental unit is used in a normal way, such as gently worn carpets and faded walls. Damage is the destruction caused by abusive or negligent use of a rental unit, like ripped carpets and heavily stained walls.

“Ordinary wear and tear” is described by Georgia law as deterioration that occurs from the “use of the premises for the purposes for which the premises were intended.

Examples include:

  • Gently worn carpets
  • Lightly scratched glass
  • Faded paint and flooring
  • Lightly dirtied grout
  • Loose door handles
  • Stained bath fixtures

“Damage” is described by Georgia law as destruction to the rental unit that occurs because of “negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises by the tenant or members of his or her household or their invitees or guests.”

Examples include:

  • Heavily stained, burned, or torn carpets
  • Broken tiles or windows
  • Holes in the wall
  • Missing fixtures

Can the Landlord Charge for Replacing the Carpet in Georgia?

Yes, landlords can charge for replacing the carpet if it is damaged beyond normal wear and tear.

Some wear and tear on a rental unit’s carpet is expected after normal day-to-day use of the property. For example, carpets typically become discolored, indented, or gently worn, when used in a normal way. However, non-typical, abusive use of carpet results in rips, visible stains, or burns. Landlords have the right to charge the tenant for the replacement of the carpet in areas where serious damage has occurred.

Can the Landlord Charge for Nail Holes in Georgia?

Yes, landlords can charge a tenant for nail holes if they damage the walls in a way that is not a result of ordinary enjoyment of the rental unit.

Tenants have the right to use the walls within their unit in a reasonable way. This includes inserting small nails or thumbtacks to hang posters or pictures. However, large holes from drilling, multiple nail holes, large nail holes, and holes made for hanging heavier things may be considered damage and thus, chargeable to the tenant.

Can the Landlord Charge a Cleaning Fee in Georgia?

Landlords in Georgia can include a standard cleaning fee in the lease agreement. Landlords may also deduct reasonable cleaning costs from the security deposit.

Can the Landlord Charge for Painting in Georgia?

Yes, in Georgia, landlords can charge for painting, except for normal wear and tear. For example, if the tenant:

  • Causes damage beyond normal wear and tear
  • Repaints the wall but is not permitted to do so under the lease agreement
  • Repaints the wall in an unprofessional way

Normal wear includes minor scrapes from daily use, fading due to sunlight, or minor cracks in the original paint. Landlords can charge for repainting if the damage is not the result of normal use. This includes stains, large or deep scratches, and water damage.

Can a Security Deposit Be Used for Last Month’s Rent in Georgia?

Georgia law does not forbid the security deposit from being used for any outstanding rent.

Landlords can include a provision in the lease agreement that the security deposit cannot be used for the last month’s rent until the tenant vacates the rental unit.

Security Deposit Returns in Georgia

Landlords must return a security deposit within 30 days from the date the tenant vacates the unit to the last known address of the tenant via first-class mail. If the landlord intends to make deductions they must also include a written statement of deductions with the documentation of damages from the initial inspection (if any).

How Long Do Landlords Have to Return Security Deposits in Georgia?

Georgia landlords have 30 days after the tenant vacates the rental unit to return any unused portion of the security deposit.

Do Landlords Owe Interest on Security Deposits in Georgia?

Unlike in some states, such as New Jersey, landlords in Georgia do notowe interest on security deposits. If the security deposit is held in an interest-bearing account, the landlord can choose whether or not to credit the tenant.

How Do Landlords Give Notice / What Information Do They Have to Provide in Georgia?

When a lease ends in Georgia, the landlord must:

  • Inspect the premises within three business days from the date the tenant vacates the premise or the lease ends, whichever is earlier
  • Make a complete itemized list of damage in the unit and estimated costs
  • Allow the tenant to inspect the rental unit and the itemized list of damage within five business days after they vacate the rental unit

When the tenant inspects the unit and reviews the itemized list of damages, they can either sign to agree with the damages (thereby waiving their right to make a claim in court for those items) or provide a statement that they disagree with some or all of the list.

If the tenant vacates the unit without notifying the landlord, the landlord must do the inspection within a reasonable time after finding out that the tenant has left.

The written explanation of deductions must be sent with the security deposit by first-class mailto the tenant’s last known address. If damages were identified in the initial inspection, the documentation should be included with the notice to the tenant.

If a landlord is an individual (not a corporation, partnership, etc.) and they own ten or fewer rental units, together with their immediate family, and do not use a company to manage the units and/or collect rent, they are not required to provide the itemized list of damages.

Security Deposit Disputes in Georgia

If landlords do not return the security deposit within the required time period, tenants can file a claim in court for up to three times the amount of the deposit wrongfully withheld plus reasonable attorneys’ fees. If the landlord can prove their fault was unintentional, the tenant may only be awarded the amount of the deposit withheld.

Tenants can also take legal action against a landlord for:

  • Failure to conduct or give the option of an initial inspection
  • Failure to provide written notice that lists deductions if the security deposit is not returned in full
  • Failure to place the security deposit in an escrow account or post a surety bond
  • Unreasonable deductions

How Can Tenants File a Dispute for a Security Deposit in Georgia?

If a landlord fails to perform their obligations regarding a security deposit, the tenant can file a dispute in Small Claims Court if the amount of damages is less than $15,000. If the amount is greater, the tenant must file a civil case in State or Superior Court.

A small claims case regarding the return of a security deposit must be filed within 4 to 6 years depending on whether the lease agreement was written or oral.

Cases are filed in the county where the defendant lives.An attorney is not required but permitted.

Our website provides more information about the process of filing a dispute in Small Claims Court.