Amazon Link for The Legal Layman’s Roadmap: Georgia Evictions

Roadmap To GA Evictions CoverWe’ve gotten confirmation from Amazon now of the release of our book. You can find the link for your Kindle here.

It will also remain available for other devices here.

As always, please be sure to leave a review and let us know if you have any questions.

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Roadmap To GA Evictions Cover We’ve put together a lot of our basic Landlord consultation information into a handy e-book. We find that a lot of landlords don’t need to hire an attorney for their entire case, but that they simply need a little bit of information or guidance. That’s what this little guide is for.


It’s currently available from Smashwords, but will be available from Amazon very soon. We’ll update once that happens. In the meantime, click here for a little more info, and here to get it for your e-reader right now.


Let us know if your particular issue is beyond the basics of this guide, or if you have any particular issues you’d like us to address in future editions.

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Advice from a Property Manager for New Landlords!

dollar propping up houseWe get plenty of calls from people with questions about leasing out a house. Often these people are looking to move to a new house while renting their current house. Other times, they are attempting to deal with a parent’s house. Sometimes these properties are paid off, and other times there are mortgages in place.

When these individuals have specific questions about leases, or whether to form a business entity, such as an LLC for their rental home, we are ready and able to help. When they are seeking overall business advice about rentals, we normally ask them to speak with a Property Manager.

That leads to other questions; What do Property Managers do? Do I need one? How do they charge? In keeping with the theme of this website, we believe that, in large part, landlords can handle their rental properties on their own. It’s a question of setting up the business properly and having reasonable, realistic expectations of the time, effort, and cost involved with being a landlord.

I reached out to Property Manager Adrian Flack of Flackwell Properties, and asked him if he would send me a little information for individuals interested in renting out a property for the first time. Here’s his advice:

Being a landlord is the equivalency of running a small business. You will be managing income and expenses, assets and liabilities, and sometimes making difficult decisions. In order to have the best possible chance of success, you will need to make an honest assessment of your home and of yourself. First, let’s talk about the house.

The first thing you should know is that there is no relationship between what your monthly costs for the property and what your home will lease for. The basic monthly costs that you should consider are all loans on the home, insurance, and HOA dues. Rent is based solely on market rates, so your costs simply don’t matter when it comes to pricing. does a pretty good job of estimating what rent for your home should be. Next, consider what the condition of the home is. I like a home to be as close to perfect as possible. The only way a tenant knows how to return a home is to see it in that condition to start with. If you have a rough home, you will only attract rough tenants. Finally be aware of the age and condition of the major components of your home. If you always have a problem with the AC at the beginning of summer, or if you know the dishwasher is on its last leg, you should be planning on those expenses. Murphy’s law is alive and well in rental homes.

Now let’s talk about you. Why are you leasing your home? Do you want to allow home values to increase and sell in a few years? Great. Do you see this as an additional revenue stream for your family? Outstanding. Are you in a bind and have to rent this out or you may lose the home? Stop reading and call a realtor to get this sold at any price. If you are a desperate landlord you will make desperate decisions. Once you go down that road, your situation will become much worse.

If you are still reading then let me tell you the big secret, I started the article with it. This is a business. You must have the ability to approach tenants in a business-like manner. You will have to verify tenant’s information to make informed decisions on leasing to them or not. You will need to keep your tenants happy with prompt service, but not bend to every unnecessary request. If a tenant is late with rent, you must be able to call them up and demand the rent. And if it all falls apart, you must be able to remove someone from your home no matter how sad their story is. As long as you keep everything in perspective that this is a business, you will be able to cross these hurdles.

Not everyone is cut out to be a landlord. If you are not, don’t fret. There are professional managers available to take on the burden if you don’t have the time or the stomach for it. Handling properties and tenants professionally allows a property manager to have the perspective and the time to keep things running smoothly. Property managers don’t really do anything you can’t do for yourself, they just do it full time. It is that experience that can often make the difference.

If you have questions about renting your property, please just let us hear from you!

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Seller Financing and Lease Purchases

Mortgage and down paymentDoing as much Real Estate work as we do, we often run into questions from Real Estate Agents, as well as Landlords, about seller-financing.

In these situations there is normally an individual with a paid-off house, and another who wants to buy that house, but for some reason is having difficulty obtaining a mortgage to make the purchase. Other times there may be a parent or grandparent “selling” a house to their child or grandchild, without the use of a traditional mortgage.

In these circumstances, people often come to us asking if we can assist with a “lease-purchase.” Every time this happens I want to strangle someone. These types of transactions need to be kept as simple as possible, and a lease-purchase is a guaranteed way to over-complicate your way into making a bad decision. So, think of these types of non-traditional financing in 3 categories; 1. Seller Financing, 2. Lease with Option to Purchase, and 3. Lease-purchase.

SELLER FINANCING: When a seller finances the purchase of their property by the buyer, they are acting as the bank. They transfer title to the property to the buyer, and the buyer signs a note and security deed (mortgage) back to the seller. If the buyer doesn’t pay on time, the seller has to foreclose on the property in order to get it back. All terms of the mortgage (down payment, interest rate, number of payments, total purchase price) are completely negotiable. This means that both parties need to be able to do some basic financial calculations (such as loan amortization). If not, it’s pretty easy to learn, and there are lots of free mortgage calculator resources online. The payments made by the buyer are applied to principal and interest, and the buyer builds equity in the property as the payments are made.

LEASE WITH OPTION TO PURCHASE: If the seller does not want to have to go through the hassle of foreclosing on the property if there is a non-payment issue, then they need to keep the buyer as a tenant, rather than an owner. Often, though, a tenant is worried that the owner will sell the property before the tenant is in a position to get their own mortgage. In this scenario, the tenant may simply purchase an “option” on the property from the owner. The Option is an agreement that the owner will sell the property to the tenant on a certain date at a certain price, if the tenant is able to make the purchase at that time. If that time comes and the tenant (or option holder) is not able to “exercise” that option, then the owner is free to sell the property to someone else as he sees fit. Normally the option fee is not refundable. Payments made under the lease during the option period are just rent, and the tenant is not building equity in the house by virtue of the rent payments.

LEASE-PURCHASE: A Lease-Purchase is a bastardization of the two methods above. The tenant is still technically just a tenant, but a portion of his rent payments may be paying down the “principal” and building equity in the home. Why is this important? If the buyer misses payments, and the seller attempts to evict them, then the buyer may also be able to counter-claim that they have equity and are part owner of the property. This can muddy the waters as to whether the tenant can be evicted from a property they partially own, and also how much, if any, of their equity the seller has to return to them. Even if this can all get sorted out, the Magistrate Court (which normally handles evictions) will likely kick the case up to Superior Court, as only the Superior Court has jurisdiction on cases involving equity or ownership of Real Estate. Superior Courts are slower and more expensive. Lease-Purchases do not protect sellers, as getting their property back in the event of a default becomes very tricky. Lease-Purchases do not protect buyers, as they do not receive title to the property until the entire purchase price has been paid.

Of course their are other considerations that may come into play. The owner may still have a mortgage on the property, for example. There are other sub-categories, such as a contract for deed, which sort of fall into these categories as well.

The point of this post, though, is to point out the flaws with a Lease-Purchase. If you find yourself in a situation where you may be a buyer or seller in a seller-financing situation, please make your transaction as clean and clear as possible. Please define the roles either as landlord/tenant, with a purchase later, or as buyer/seller, with possible foreclosure later. Do not confuse the two.

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The Myth of the “Small” Case.

tiny dollar with tweezers Sticking with this site’s overall theme – when it may not be worth it to hire a lawyer – a common complaint we hear is that lawyers charge to much; this case is just a “small” case. Exactly.

Let’s say someone owes you $2,000. You want to sue them to try to get a judgment so that you can then try to collect this amount from them. What needs to happen?

If you hire a lawyer, he has to review the contract/documents/agreements or get an understanding of why this person or company owes you money. He has to find out where this person or company is located in order to file the suit in the correct venue and have them properly served. He has to prepare the lawsuit, file it, serve it, send discovery requests (maybe), and attend a hearing or trial. Even assuming that we’re keeping everything in Magistrate Court (small claims court), those steps have to be followed whether your claim is for $2k or $15k. It literally makes no difference. Accordingly, the lawyer is probably going to charge approximately the same amount for doing the same amount of work. If not, the attorney is probably more willing to take the case on a contingency (you only pay if he gets you some money) if the case is larger. If an attorney works on a 30% contingency, then your $2k case is only worth about $700 for him, which is likely not enough, considering how much work will go into it.

The same holds true with many criminal cases. Yes, your speeding ticket fine is “only” $125. The attorney, however, knows that he still has to file an entry to appearance and discovery requests, appear at multiple court dates, and potentially conduct a trial, including bringing in witnesses, submitting pictures and other evidence, and cross-examining the officers and other witnesses from the state. The same is true whether this is a speeding ticket worth $125 or a misdemeanor marijuana case where you’re facing jail time, fines, probation, and a license suspension. Accordingly, the attorney will likely charge about the same amount for doing the same type of work. (Of course, there are other externalities to consider with criminal cases, as most offenses carry the possibility of a court-appointed lawyer. That is a discussion for another day, though).

Why is this important? Because this all feeds into the fact that, wrong as it may seem, everyone has to make a decision on where their line is between practicality and principle. This is true for the client, and it’s true for the attorney.

For the client: is the dollar amount of the claim, potential fine, or potential consequences worth fighting a legal battle over? If so, is it worth having that fight, plus the cost of hiring a lawyer fight it with you?

For the lawyer: Is the likely payout on the case worth setting aside other business and time to handle?

Only if the answers to all 3 of these questions is “yes,” should the attorney be hired.

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By far, one of the most popular areas where we get questions and confusion is for Evictions. We even went so far as to make a special page on our firm’s website to go over everything.

Basically, we find that a lot of landlords have only one or two properties as investments. These guys don’t have eviction departments, and may not have much experience with bad tenants. They may not know it, but these landlords need to address only two real issues: 1. Can they get the bad tenant out, and get a good tenant in? 2. Can they get the money that they’re owed from the current bad tenant?

The answer to number 1 is almost always “yes.” If the tenant hasn’t paid, then you can, pretty much always, get them out. The answer to number 2 is almost always “no.” But why? Shouldn’t the tenant have to pay what they owe? Of course they should. Let’s play this out, though. You file a dispossessory against your tenant, go to court, and win. You get a writ of possession which lets you get your property back, and you get a judgment against the tenant for back rent. What is that judgment? It is a piece of paper saying that the tenant owes you money. That’s it. I have a feeling that most of you already have a piece of paper saying that they owe you money, called a lease. The judgment simply gives you the right to try to collect the debt through garnishment, liens, etc… Most defaulting tenants are broke, don’t own anything, and may not have a steady enough paycheck to garnish. When you take the small possibility that this tenant has anything to get, and combine that with the cost to file the post-judgment interrogatories, garnishments, liens, etc… (assuming you can even find where the tenant is living now), plus the time and opportunity cost of pursuing those legal remedies, it is rarely worth it for the landlord to worry too much about the back rent. While Principle vs Practicality shouldn’t be at odds with each other, with a business such as property investment, that is often the case. You are welcome to pursue the principle so long as you are willing to pay the price, even if there is no likely return on that investment.

What a judgment can do for you, though, is allow you to use unallocated portions of the security deposit toward the back rent, which you are not allowed to do without the judgment.

If you have questions about being a landlord, setting up your business, evicting a tenant, etc…, please let us know, and we’ll try to respond. If you want some free info about all this, take a look at my firm’s link, above.

At some point in the near future, I think we’ll try to have an ebook available with a sort of walk-through for the eviction process. If you’d like to suggest other topics for ebooks, let me know.

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Long Story Short…

I am a lawyer. I love to take money from people and work their cases for them; it’s how I support myself and my family.

There is a problem, though; Not every person with a legal issue needs a lawyer. Shocking, I know. What a lot of people need, it seems, is about a 10-15 minute conversation to help them discover that they can often handle their matter on their own. Another common occurrence is that even if the client has a perfectly good case, there is simply not enough money in it. For instance, it most often isn’t worth it for a client to pay me $750 to go try to save them $125 on a speeding ticket. It often isn’t worth it for a landlord to have me handle their eviction only to get them a “worthless” judgment for back rent against a broke tenant.

As much as it pains me, as a lawyer, to say this, but the practical realities of life often mean that someone doesn’t need to hire a lawyer. No need to spend a dollar to collect 99 cents.

So, hence this website; The Legal Layman. My goal here is to randomly post non-lawyerly advice for people with legal questions. If I can provide a little education to the general public, maybe it will help “pre-screen” some cases for me, I don’t know. At any rate, I try to keep tabs on common issues I come across during consultations which seem to be cases which might not require a lawyer.

At any rate, let me go through the general disclaimers, which I’m sure I’ll reiterate often:

I am a practicing attorney in the State of Georgia. I do not pretend to know anything about any laws in any other state. Further, I don’t know you, and I’m not your lawyer. If you would like to hire me, Great! Simply visit my firm’s website at, send me a message, and we’ll discuss how/whether to make that happen. Until I agree to let you hire me, though, take any information you see here as a confidence builder and as a starting point for your own research. If your case goes beyond what I talk about here, by all means, consult a lawyer directly. The bottom line is this I’M NOT GIVING YOU DIRECT ADVICE, AND YOU’RE NOT MY CLIENT! There, I feel better now.

In the meantime, please leave comments and let me know if there are any topics you’d like to see discussed. I’m sure this site won’t be updated as often as I’d like (I do have a day-job, you know.), but I’ll try not to lag too much.


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