Under Georgia law (O.C.G.A. §44-7-30) a security deposit is money paid by the tenant to the landlord. The security deposit protects the landlord if the tenant vacates without making required payments or damages the rental unit. If the tenant gives proper notice and vacates without owing any rent or damages, the landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant within 30 days.
Georgia law requires that, before the tenant pays a security deposit and moves into the rental unit, the landlord must give the tenant a complete list of any existing damages (move-in inspection) to the unit that is signed by both the landlord and tenant.
Amounts identified in the lease as the security deposit are refundable to the tenant. Pet deposits and advance rent deposits, which are refundable under the lease, are considered part of a security deposit under the Georgia law. The security deposit does not include non refundable fees, or amounts applied toward payment of rent, services, or utilities. Application fees are not considered security deposits and are usually not refundable, should you choose not to move into the unit. Reservation fees – deposits to hold an apartment until you actually sign a lease – are not always refundable and sometimes they turned into security deposit at time of move-in inspection.
If the security deposit is held because of damage to the unit, the landlord must send the tenant notice within 30 days identifying the damage, the estimated dollar amount of the damage, and a refund, if any, of the difference between the security deposit and the amount withheld for damages. When can the landlord keep the security deposit in full or partially:
- if the tenant failed to pay any rent, late charges, pet fees, and utilities which were the tenant’s responsibility under the terms of the lease
- if the tenant contracted for the rental property to be repaired or cleaned and those charges were not paid.
- if there are damages caused by negligent or careless acts, accident or abuse of the property.
- as damage caused by the tenant’s early termination of the lease.
A landlord cannot retain a security deposit to cover normal wear and tear that occurs as a result of the tenant using the property for its intended purpose.
Georgia Law doesn’t require the landlord to place the security deposit in an interest-bearing account, nor does the law require that interest earned be paid to tenant.
Always get a receipt for any deposit or fee that you pay.
Source: Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook