Abandonment is a situation where a tenant leaves the rental property and stops paying rent without formally telling the landlord that they are ending the lease. One day the landlord learns of the abandonment and finds an empty home, or more likely, a home full of garbage. Abandonment is a breach of the lease, but it is not the same as leaving the property when the lease ends or being forced out of the property by something like a fire or a natural disaster.
Why Should I Worry About Abandonment?
If a tenant stops paying rent the landlord may want to argue that the tenant has abandoned the rental property because it is faster than filing for an eviction. Remember, it is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant without a court order, but if the tenant abandons the rental property the landlord does not need to file for eviction and can just take over the property on his own. If you stop paying rent the landlord might try to argue you have abandoned the property.
If the tenant explicitly tells the landlord they are abandoning the property, for example in an email or letter, then abandonment is clear. If a landlord thinks the rental property is abandoned the tenant might come home one day to find the locks changed and all of there stuff gone. Abandonment only comes into play when the tenant has stopped paying rent.
Here are some other factors that might mean a tenant has abandon a rental property, in addition to not paying rent:
• The tenant does not respond to calls or emails about abandonment
• The tenant has stopped receiving mail at the rental property
• The tenant has shut off power or water, or has stopped paying utility bills
• The tenant has moved out of the rental property and has not left anything behind.
Georgia does not have a hard rule about this, but in general if a tenant is paying rent on time the landlord has no right to consider the rental property abandoned. If a tenant wants to pay rent for an empty apartment and never live in it that’s the tenant’s right.
If you are not paying rent be sure the landlord knows you are still living in the rental property. While assuming you have abandoned the rental property and unlawfully evicting you is against the law, it still means you are left on the street without a place to live!
If you think you have been unlawfully evicted or if a landlord has forced you out of a property against your will in Georgia, we can help.