What does it mean if I fail to pay my rent?
If you do not have rent, in full, to your landlord then you may be evicted or face other consequences. Failure to pay rent is the most common reason for eviction in Georgia. Paying rent is the most basic obligation the tenant has to the landlord, and personal issues, family trouble, or unemployment are; therefore, not defenses.
However, this does not mean that you may not have one or more legal defenses or that you should pay whatever the landlord demands. If you find yourself facing eviction for failure to pay rent you may have defenses that reduce the amount of money you owe or could keep you from being evicted.
Before we talk about potential defenses for failure to pay rent in Georgia. I cannot stress enough to you that you must file an answer with the court within seven days in order to raise a defense.
***click here to learn more about how to file an answer***
Dispute the Amount Owed
Look carefully at the amount of money the landlord claims you owe. Did the landlord not count a check or money order that you paid? Are they charging you a late fee that is more than the amount allowed in your lease? Is the landlord claiming you made a late payment but you paid it on time? Are the court costs and attorney fees very high (over $500)? You may owe the landlord money, but that does not mean the landlord can make up expenses or jack up the fees and costs. Bring these issues up when you file your answer.
Complete Tender of Rent Past Due
Life happens, if you failed to pay rent payment, but now you have the money and want to stay in the home. Once per year, you may use what is called the tender defense. This is when the tenant offers to pay to the landlord all of the money due within seven days. If the tenant does, in fact, pay the entire amount due the eviction is stopped.
Keep in mind that the tender defense is not optional. The landlord MUST accept the tender of rent if you offer to pay it.
To use the tender defense you should email your landlord, or just walk to the office, and offer to tender the amount due. They will usually take your money if you offer it to them. Get something in writing, such as an email, confirming that they are agreeing to accept the money and will stop the eviction if you pay the amount. Get a receipt for your payment. Remember, you have not tendered until you have actually paid; a promise to pay is not payment.
If the landlord refuses to accept your tender you need to file an answer within seven days. When you go to court bring the money with you and tell the judge you offered to pay the landlord but the landlord refused to accept the money.
Partial Payment – you paid part of this month’s rent
A tenant cannot be evicted if a landlord accepts partial payment of rent for the current month. That does not mean you do not owe the money, but it does mean the landlord cannot evict you this month.
Waiver of Rent Payment
If you normally pay rent late and the landlord accepts it without charging you a late fee or evicting you then the landlord has “waived” immediate payment. If, however, your landlord has told you they will no longer accept late rent payments then this defense will not succeed.