FAQ for Georgia Tenants with Pets
I have been renting my apartment or house for a while. Now, my landlord said I have to get rid of my pet. Is that legal?
Maybe. In Georgia, it is up to the landlord whether to allow pets in their rental property. Whether or not you truly have to get rid of your pet depends on what your lease says. The lease is the agreement you made with your landlord when you moved in. If your current lease says that you can have pets, and/or if your landlord specifically gave you permission to have pets when you moved in, then you are allowed to keep them until your lease expires. Read your lease carefully. If your lease does not mention pets at all, then you may be able to keep them, but it’s a good idea to get written permission from your landlord to have pets when you move in. If your lease has expired, see below.
It’s time to renew my lease (or my lease has expired). My landlord previously allowed me to have pets, but now he wants me to sign a new lease that says I cannot have pets. Is that legal?
Yes. While a landlord cannot change the terms of the lease during a lease, your landlord can change the terms of the new lease they offer you when it’s time to renew your lease. When a lease is renewed, it’s typical for a landlord to increase the rent. Similarly, your landlord is allowed to change the section of your lease that previously allowed pets. You should try to negotiate with your landlord to see if they will agree to let you keep your pet. For example, you could offer to pay an additional security deposit to cover any damage your pet causes while in the rental, or offer to pay for pet-specific cleaning upon move-out. However, it is ultimately your landlord’s decision.
I am looking for a new place to rent. Lots of places want to charge a large pet deposit or monthly pet fee. Other places have breed restrictions (e.g., no pit bulls or “aggressive breeds”). Are these requirements and restrictions legal?
Yes. Georgia landlords are allowed to charge their tenants pet deposits and pet fees. They are also allowed to prohibit tenants from keeping certain breeds as pets in their rentals.
I am losing my housing due to eviction, foreclosure, or some other reason. I won’t have stable housing for a little while. Is there an organization that can take care of my pet until I find new, pet- friendly housing?
Yes. Paws Between Homes is an Atlanta organization that provides temporary foster homes for up to 90 days to the pets of people who are losing their housing. To see if PBH can help you, contact us here.
I have experienced domestic violence/intimate partner abuse. I want to move out, but I don’t have a place that I can bring my pet, and I do not want to leave my pet in the home with the abuser. Is there an organization that can take care of my pet until I find new, pet-friendly housing?
Yes. Ahimsa House provides foster homes for the animal victims of domestic violence throughout Georgia. To see if Ahimsa House can help you, contact their 24- hour crisis line: 404-452-6248.
My current lease says I can have pets, but my landlord says they changed their mind and I have to get rid of my pet. Is that legal?
No. A landlord is not allowed to change the terms of the lease in the middle of a lease (before it expires). For example, if you signed a 12-month lease and you’re in month 8, your landlord cannot suddenly decide to change what the lease says without your agreeing to the changes. This is called a unilateral change, and it is not legal. Your landlord is obligated to honor the terms of the lease until the lease expires.
My landlord is threatening to evict me because of my pet. Is that legal?
Maybe. If your lease says that you cannot have any pets, or that you can only have one pet and you have more than one, then you have violated your lease, and your landlord can evict you for that lease violation. Similarly, if your pet has caused a lot of damage to your home, your landlord may try to evict you for that reason. To evict you, your landlord must file an eviction case in court (called a “dispossessory”). Once the court case is filed, you will have seven (7) days after you are served with a copy of the complaint to file a response (called an “answer”), and you are entitled to a hearing in front of a judge. Call a legal aid organization for advice and to find out what your rights are (see Resources below).
How has COVID-19 affected the eviction process in Georgia?
The State of Georgia has 159 counties, and each county has its own eviction court and procedures. Most Georgia courts temporarily stopped holding eviction hearings due to COVID-19, but many counties have resumed those hearings or are holding the hearings online. Fulton County resumed in-person eviction hearings in November 2020. You may qualify for protection under various eviction moratoriums (or delays) that prevent your landlord from filing an eviction against you. If your landlord is threatening to evict you, or has filed an eviction, you should call a legal aid organization (see Resources below) to get legal advice about your situation.
What is a service animal or an assistance animal? Can my pet be considered a service animal or an assistance animal?
Federal nondiscrimination laws require landlords to allow tenants with disabilities to keep service animals or assistance animals. Even if the landlord does not allow pets, tenants with disabilities may request a reasonable accommodation to keep a service animal or assistance animal. Landlords are not allowed to charge pet fees or pet deposits for service animals or assistance animals. A service animal is a dog or a miniature horse that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. An assistance animal (an emotional support animal is one type) is an animal commonly kept as a pet that does work, performs tasks, and/or provides therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities. An assistance animal does not need to be trained to perform the service. If the disability or need for the animal is not obvious, a landlord may request certain forms of verification. There is no official “registry” or “certification” for designating a pet as a service animal or assistance animal. For more information, contact a legal aid office.