Legislative Update - Week 4

Posted By: Stephen Davis Legislative Updates ,

Schedule Set Through March 1

This week the House and Senate agreed to a schedule that will take session through legislative day 25 (out of 40) on Monday, March 1.  Crossover Day – a critical procedural milestone necessary for bills to remain viable – will occur shortly thereafter.
 
Maintaining this schedule is dependent on lawmakers meeting internal benchmarks for the FY2022 budget.  It also assumes that routine testing and mitigation measures will continue to keep legislators healthy and avoid mass absences.
 
Legislators will return to Atlanta on Tuesday, February 16.

Landlord-Tenant Legislation

Right to Cure (HB 408)                                                       
Rep. Cooper, R-Marietta

Assigned to the House Judiciary Cmte on Feb-11
HB 408 makes changes to the procedures required to initiate a dispossession, including a demand by the owner and a tenant’s opportunity to cure.  Click here for more information.
 
Eviction Notices to Tenants (HB 301)                         
Rep. Park, D-Lawrenceville

Assigned to the House Judiciary Cmte on Feb-8
HB 301 adds additional notice requirements for the termination of tenancies.  Click here for additional information.
 
Warranty of Title (HB 344)                                               
Rep. McLaurin, D-Atlanta

Assigned to the House Judiciary Cmte on Feb-9
HB 344 relates to covenants and warranties generally and states that a general warranty of title does not limit or encumber rights arising from the relationship of landlord and tenant.  For more information click here.
 
Lease Termination for Stalking Victims (SB 75)         
Sen. Jackson, D-Stone Mtn

Pending in the Senate Judiciary Cmte
SB 75 provides for lease termination for victims of stalking.  Members of the Association met with the sponsor to discuss her initiative on February 4.  Click here for additional information.
 
“Family Violence” Expansion (HB 231)                              
Rep. Gaines, R-Athens

Pending in the House Judiciary Non-Civil Cmte
HB 231 expands the applicability of protective orders involving victims of stalking to include certain acts between persons who have or are dating or conceived a child.  This would impact the circumstances under which a tenant can terminate their lease were SB 75 to pass.
 
Disregard COVID Evictions                                                  
Rep. Mainor, D-Atlanta

Rep. Mainor is circulating legislation that would prohibit a landlord from refusing to enter into a rental or lease agreement based solely on the prospective tenant being previously evicted during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The legislation has not yet been formally introduced but may be forthcoming.

Other Property Management Legislation

COVID Liability Extension (HB 112)                             
Rep. Kelley, R-Cedartown

Adopted by the House on Feb-9
HB 112 extends last year's legislation to provide certain immunities from liability claims regarding COVID-19 by one year, until July 14, 2022.
 
Crime and Safety Notices to Tenants (HB 138)                
Rep. Mainor, D-Atlanta

Heard in a Judiciary Subcmte on Feb-9
HB 138 requires landlords to obtain and provide notice to existing and prospective tenants regarding crimes occurring on the premises.  On February 9, the Association testified in opposition to the measure before a House Judiciary Subcommittee.  Subcommittee members were generally concerned about the availability of crime information specific to individual properties.  Click here for additional information.
 
Credit Reporting Moratorium (HR 72)                           
Rep. Schofield, D-Atlanta

Given a hearing in the House Banks & Banking Cmte on Feb-10
HR 72 urges the US Congress to enact legislation placing a moratorium on negative credit reporting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Vehicle Booting (HB 400)                                                    
Rep. Dollar, R-Marietta

Assigned to the House Public Safety & Homeland Security Cmte on Feb-11
HB 400 prohibits the use of boots or other vehicle immobilization devices statewide unless first explicitly authorized by a local government, including vehicles illegally parked on private property.  Even if a tenant or occupant consents to booting in a lease, the property owner must provide 30-days’ written notice prior to immobilization.
 
Wavier of Liens (SB 143)                                                    
Sen. Tippins, R-Marietta

Assigned to the Senate Judiciary Cmte on Feb-11
In a 2019 court case, the Georgia Court of Appeals[1] determined that when a contractor signs a lien waiver, it waives claims for “all purposes,” not only for the preservation of lien rights, unless the contractor files an affidavit of nonpayment or a claim of lien within 60 days. 
 
In 2020, the legislature adopted legislation to update the lien law and preserve the ability to pursue breach of contract claims or other rights and remedies available under the law.  SB 143 corrects a scrivener’s error in the mandated notice.
 
Military Fair Housing Act (HB 299)                                              
Rep. Scott, D-Rex

Assigned to the House Defense & Veterans Affairs Cmte on Feb-8
HB 299 enacts the "Military Fair Housing Act" to prohibit housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income,  disability, veteran or military status, or genetic information.
 
Other pending property management items include:

  • Hairstyle Discrimination (SB 61), prohibiting discrimination based on natural hair.
  • Description of Rental Property (HB 184), prohibiting the false representation of residential rental dwellings.
  • Funding Database (HB 180), requiring state and local governments to maintain databases of sources of funding available to the public, including rental assistance and other housing-related programs.
  • Childhood Lead Exposure Study Committee (HR 52).

Property Taxation & Valuation Legislation

Special Council on Tax Reform (SB 148)                         
Sen. Hufstetler, R-Rome

Assigned to the Senate Finance Cmte on Feb-11
SB 148 creates the 2021 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians and the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure.  The goal of these groups will be to launch a comprehensive review of the state’s revenue structure, including tax incentives, later this year and implement recommended reforms in 2022.  The bill has been co-signed by 38 of the Senate’s 56 members.
 
Continuing Ed for Board of Equalization (HB 292)      
Rep. Williams, R-Cordele

Assigned to the House Ways & Means Cmte on Feb-8
HB 292 removes continuing education requirements for members of county boards of equalization following their initial training for their first term.
 
Excise Tax on AirBNB (HB 317)                                   
Rep. Stephens, R-Savannah

Assigned to the House Ways & Means Cmte on Feb-8
HB 317 expands the state levy of a nightly $5 excise tax to all rooms, lodgings, and accommodations, including those furnished by "marketplace facilitators" like AirBNB.
 
Other pending property taxation and valuation items include:

  • Taxation of Condemned Property (HB 137), clarifying that otherwise taxable income resulting from compensation to a taxpayer for the governmental condemnation of the taxpayer's real property is not subject to state income tax.
  • Exemption for Public Property (HB 151), terminating an exemption from ad valorem taxation for public property owned by a political subdivision outside of its territorial limits.

Code Enforcement, Land Use & Development Legislation

Alternative Plan Review (SB 49)                                            
Sen. Dixon, R-Buford

Adopted by the Senate on Feb-11
SB 49 allows for alternative plan review, permitting, and inspection by private professional providers, allowing applicants to select this option at the onset of the process, rather than waiting 30 days for the local government.  The applicant is still required to pay the local government 50% of their regulatory fee if they opt for a private provider.
 
City Housing Authorities (SB 144)                                   
Rep. Tippins, R-Marietta

Assigned to the Senate Government Oversight Cmte on Feb-11
SB 144 limits the ability of city housing authorities to operate outside municipal boundaries without authorization.
 
Housing Tax Credits (HB 311)                                              
Rep. Davis, Stone Mtn

Assigned to the House Ways & Means Cmte on Feb-8
HB 311 amends the state’s housing tax credit to no more than 50% of the federal housing tax credit allowed.
 
Other pending code enforcement, land use, and development items include:

  • Environmental Impact Reports (HB 279), requiring local governments to post contents of environmental effects reports on their official websites.
  • Zoning Procedures Clearinghouse (HB 186), requiring local governments to compile all zoning decisions and post them on the local government's website.
  • Local Ordinances and Codes Clearinghouse (HB 187), requiring local governing authorities to compile all local ordinances, property maintenance codes, codes of technical regulations, and associated fines and penalties.
  • Tax Credits and Bonds (HB 66), providing that local school systems, counties, and municipal governing authorities can become parties to bond validation hearings.
  • Education Members to Planning Commission (HB 221), allowing local boards of education to appoint members to local planning commissions.

General Business Legislation

Cybersecurity Standards (SB 52)                                     
Sen. Thompson, R-White

Favorably reported from the Senate Science & Technology Cmte on Feb-10
SB 52 provides standards for cybersecurity programs to protect businesses from liability.
 
Remote Shareholders’ Meetings (HB 306)                    
Rep. Gunter, R-Blairsville

Assigned to the House Banks & Banking Cmte on Feb-8
HB 306 provides that a corporation may hold annual shareholders' meetings and special shareholders' meetings by means of remote communication and provides requirements for such meetings by remote communication.  This has been allowed by Executive Order during the pandemic; this legislation seeks to make the allowance permanent.
 
Remote Online Notarizations (HB 334)                                
Rep. Gullett, R-Dallas

Assigned to the House Judiciary Cmte on Feb-9
HB 334 allows for remote online notarizations.  This has been allowed by Executive Order during the pandemic; this legislation seeks to make the allowance permanent.
 
S-Corp Income Tax (HB 149)                                       
Rep. Williamson, R-Monroe

Pending in the House Ways & Means Cmte
HB 149 allows registered S-Corporations to deduct state and local taxes on their federal tax return, as was allowed before recent federal tax reform.

Legislative Index & Additional Information

HB 138: Crime and Safety Notices to Tenants                 
Rep. Mainor, D-Atlanta

HB 138 requires landlords to provide notice to existing and prospective tenants regarding crimes occurring on the premises being leased.  The landlord or manager of an apartment building or complex with ten or more residential units must obtain from law enforcement a summary or listing of specific crimes “that occurred on or in such property constituting the” apartment complex.  Specific crimes include the commission or attempted commission of murder, assault, battery, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, rape, peeping tom, gang-related crimes, burglary, theft, or felony drug crimes.  This applies to instances where these crimes were reported or investigated by law enforcement.
 
For current residents, the landlord must notify all residents every six months of the summary or listing of crimes of the preceding six-month period.  The landlord is required to maintain records of the notification.  For prospective residents, the landlord must provide a summary or listing of crimes for the preceding year.
 
Failure to provide notices or maintain records of notification is deemed an unlawful practice in renting dwellings under state fair housing law, OCGA 8-3-4.  Violation of the Fair Housing Act provides for fines up to $50,000 as well as punitive and actual civil damages.
 
 
HB 301: Additional Eviction Rights for Tenants        
Rep. Park, D-Lawrenceville

This measure adds additional notice requirements for the termination of tenancies. 
 
Section 1 of the legislation amends state law related to dispossessory proceedings to require a 14 days’ notice by a landlord for a termination due to refusal to pay rent or damage beyond normal wear and tear.  In either case, the tenant has the ability to remedy the deficiency and avoid eviction.  For other defaults in the lease agreement, the landlord is required to provide a 30-day termination notice.  If the tenant commits a violent act, engages in criminal activity, or threatens to be a real and present danger, the landlord need only provide three days’ notice.
 
Section 2 amends state law relating to the issuance of summons, service, time for answer, and defenses and counterclaims.  It extends the window for the tenant to answer a summons from seven to fourteen days.  Section 3 relates to when tender of payment by tenant serves as complete defense and similarly extends the window for the tenant to be allowed to pay all rents owed from seven to fourteen days.
 
Section 4 amends state law relating to judgment, writ of possession, landlord’s liability for wrongful conduct, distribution of funds paid into court, and personal property.  It adds the following new language:
(c)(1) Following the entry of a judgment in favor of the landlord and against the tenant for the possession of the premises and forfeiture of the tenancy due to nonpayment of rent, the court, at the time of the show cause hearing or trial or upon subsequent motion of the tenant but before the execution of the writ of possession, may stay the writ of possession upon good cause and on such terms that the court deems fair and just for both parties. In making this decision, the court shall consider evidence of the following factors:
(A) The tenant's willful or intentional default or intentional failure to pay rent;
(B) Whether nonpayment of the rent was caused by exigent circumstances that were beyond the tenant's control and that are not likely to recur;
(C) The tenant's ability to timely pay the judgment;
(D) The tenant's payment history;
(E) Whether the tenant is otherwise in substantial compliance with the rental agreement;
(F) Hardship on the tenant if evicted; and
(G) Conduct related to other notices served within the last six months.
(2) The burden of proof for such relief under this subsection shall be on the tenant. If the tenant seeks relief pursuant to this subsection at the time of the show cause hearing, the court shall hear the matter at the time of the show cause hearing or as expeditiously as possible so as to avoid unnecessary delay or hardship on the parties
 
 
SB 75: Lease Termination for Stalking Victims          
Sen. Jackson, D-Stone Mtn

In 2018, the Association worked with advocates and legislative leaders to enact HB 835, allowing victims of family violence to terminate their lease when a civil or criminal family violence order had been issued protecting the tenant or their minor child.
 
This year’s SB 75 expands the definition of “criminal family violence family order” to include stalking as defined at OCGA 16-5-90.  In keeping with the 2018 language, the tenant may terminate their residential lease agreement effective 30 days after providing the landlord with written notice of termination when the tenant is a documented victim of stalking.  The notice to the landlord must be accompanied by a copy of the applicable civil family violence order or criminal family violence order and a copy of the police report if the order was an ex parte temporary protective order.
 
 
HB 408: Right to Cure                                                        
Rep. Cooper, R-Marietta

HB 408 adds steps to the landlord’s demand for possession.  It is similar to an initiative the author pursued last year in partnership with the Enterprise Community Partners, Georgia ACT, and the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice.  New language states that:
(2) Such demand shall be made in writing, shall state the amount of rent then past due or any other basis for the demand for the possession of the property, and shall be delivered to the tenant by:
(A) Hand delivery or by posting on the premises of such lands or tenements; and 
(B) First-class mail to the tenant's last known address. 
(3) Such demand shall: 
(A) State at no more than two inches from the top margin, in at least 16-point Helvetica font, and at least two inches apart from any other text, and in contrasting color to the color of the paper, the words: 'Landlord's Demand for Possession and Tenant's Notice of 7 Day Opportunity to Cure'; and
(B) Instruct the tenant of the means to provide payment or otherwise demonstrate compliance in curing the alleged basis for such demand within seven days or risk eviction. 
(4) The owner shall make such demand even if the owner believes that the tenant will refuse to comply with such written demand.
(5) Within seven days after the receipt of such demand by first-class mail, the tenant shall be allowed to tender to the owner and the owner shall accept all rent duly owed or to show that the alleged basis for such demand has been cured. If the tenant tenders such rent or cures such alleged basis, the owner shall not make an affidavit as provided for under subsection (b) of this Code section.
 
 
HB 344: Warranty of Title                                                
Rep. McLaurin, D-Atlanta

HB 344 relates to covenants and warranties generally and states that a general warranty of title does not limit or encumber rights arising from the relationship of landlord and tenant.  It says specifically that:
“No covenant in this Code section [OCGA 44-5-62] shall be construed to be the same as any common-law covenant of quiet enjoyment between landlord and tenant, nor shall any limit on the applicability of a covenant provided for under this Code section be construed to apply to limit any common-law covenant of quiet enjoyment, express or implied, of any tenant in any claim against his or her landlord.”