House Bill 346
A bill to be entitled an Act to amend Article 1 of Chapter 7 of Title 44 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to landlord and tenant generally, so as to prohibit retaliation by a landlord against a tenant for taking certain actions; to provide for circumstances that are not considered retaliation; to provide for remedies; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.
House Bill 346, signed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, reads that tenants, without fear of retaliation, shall be permitted to:
- Exercise against a landlord a right or remedy granted to the tenant by lease, municipal ordnance or federal or state statue
- Give a landlord a notice to repair or exercise a remedy
- Complain to a government entity about a building or code violation
- Establish or participate in a tenant organization
Though these rights were previously established in Georgia law, few tenants have acted on them in the past. Georgia has the third highest eviction rate in the nation, and low-income renters are the primary targets. Low income families often face the stresses of unsafe housing conditions without the ability to hold their landlords accountable for mistreatment. The passage of HB 346 should foster a friendlier environment for such tenants. In the event that a tenant wins a lawsuit in court, clear penalties are now given for the landlord in violation of the renter’s rights. Damages such as reimbursements, attorney fees, moving costs, and actual expenses are spelled out. Additionally, a landlord is specifically prohibited from treating a tenant any differently if legal action is taken, protecting renters from retaliation practices. HB 346 also works to protect landlords in the event that a tenant acts with vindictive intent.
The passage of this bill comes with hopes that common conflicts arising over evictions, retaliatory actions, and frivolous complaints between renters and their landlords will be minimized, creating a more favorable situation for tenancy. Georgia joins 41 other states that also ban retaliation against tenants seeking housing code enforcement.