2022 Legislative Update - Week 6

Posted By: Stephen Davis 2022 Legislative Updates ,

Session Approaches Midpoint

After three days in session this week, lawmakers will return to Atlanta following President’s Day for legislative days 19 and 20, marking the midpoint of the forty-day session.  Now entering the third quarter, lawmakers will shift their attention away from introducing bills and towards the vetting process both at the committee level and on the Chamber floors.  Daily debate calendars will continue to grow and committees will continue their methodical work through priority measures.
 
Despite the focus on the legislative session, the political landscape is always shifting in the background.  Just this week, Senator Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta) and Representative Terry England (R-Auburn) announced they would not seek reelection.  England is the Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and works year-round on Georgia’s budget.  Tippins serves as Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.  In just three short weeks, the line between lawmaking and campaigning will blur even further when candidates descend on the state capitol for qualifying.  Several other veteran lawmakers are expected to announce their retirement before then.

Landlord Tenant Legislation

Property Owners in Dispossessory Proceedings (SB 439)      
Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta

Hearing only in the Senate Judiciary Cmte on Feb-14
At issue in SB 439 is property owned by an individual during dispossessory proceedings in magistrate courts.  Reportedly, current magistrate court rules allow businesses to appoint an agent to act on their behalf in proceedings, but not individual owners.  Instead, magistrate courts require these owners to appear personally.  SB 439 would allow agent representation in these circumstances.
 
Several housing advocates testified during the Feb-14 hearing.  They argued that tenants should also be allowed agent representation in dispossessory proceedings to maintain parity with landlords.  This would potentially impact the timeline for taking possession of the property.  Ultimately, the measure was given only a hearing and no vote was taken.
 
Exempt Evictions from Tolling Provisions
(HB 1393)
Rep. Bonner, R-Fayetteville
Relating to suspension or tolling of deadlines and time schedules in event of judicial emergency and statutory speedy trial requirements defined, to read as follows: “(a.1) Subsection (a) of this Code section shall not apply to any dispossessory proceeding brought against a residential tenant pursuant to Article 3 of Chapter 7 of Title 44.”

Pending Landlord Tenant Legislation
  • Eviction Records Restriction Act (HB 1149).  Seals eviction records (a) from nonpayment during a public health emergency, and (b) when the plaintiff does not prevail, when the parties reach a settlement, or when three years have lapsed since dispossession caused by nonpayment.
  • Crime and Safety Notices to Tenants (HB 965).  Requires the landlord with more than 50 units to provide tenants and prospective tenants a summary every six months of certain crimes that occurred on or in the property.  Failure to comply is a violation of the Fair Business Practice Act.
  • Right to Cure (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.

  • Evictions During the Pandemic (HB 894).  Prohibits a prospective tenant from being refused a rental agreement based upon a previous eviction during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Other Property Management Legislation

Criminal Gang Activity (HB 1134)                                                   
Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula

Adopted by the House on Feb-14
HB 1134 provides the attorney general with concurrent jurisdiction with prosecutors for certain criminal gang-related crimes across the state.  The attorney general may also employ peace officers for investigative purposes.
 
Elevator Inspections (HB 994)                                                       
Rep. Matthew Wilson, D-Atlanta

Hearing only in the House Regulated Industries Cmte on Feb-16
HB 994 increases the civil penalty for failure to inspect elevators from $500 to $2,500 per elevator, dumbwaiter, escalator, manlift, or moving walk not inspected.  Fine increase again, up to $5,000 per unit, if inspections are further delayed.  During the presentation, the sponsor mentioned the backlog of elevator inspections at the Department of Insurance.
 
“LEAF” Act (HB 1301)                                                                            
Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons

Scheduled for consideration in a House Governmental Affairs Subcmte on Feb-22
The Landscape Equipment and Agricultural Fairness (LEAF) Act prohibits local governments from banning gasoline-powered leaf blowers or other landscape maintenance equipment.
 
Childhood Lead Exposure Control Act (HB 1355)                           
Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome

Assigned to the House Health and Human Services Cmte on Feb-15
Based on recommendations made by a 2021 House Study Committee, HB 1355 addresses lead exposure and remediation, particularly in children.  It updates the state’s definition of “confirmed lead poisoning” to comport with nationally recognized guidelines.  It increases, from 14 to 30 days, the time an owner or managing agent has to submit an abatement plan.  In lieu of abatement, it allows the owner to attest that the property will be not used as a dwelling in the future.
 
Income Tax Deduction for Rental Charges (HB 1305)                   
Rep. Yasmin Neal, D-Morrow

Assigned to the House Ways and Means Cmte on Feb-11
HB 1305 creates a state income tax deduction of 20% of primary resident rental charges.  This is similar to HB 979, which creates a tax credit for low-income individuals who lease certain dwellings.


Pending Property Management Legislation
  • Crime Information Center (SB 257).  Provides for criminal history record information restrictions for persons cited with or convicted of certain criminal offenses.
  • Duty of Owner Specific to Firearms (HB 1091).  Revises the duty of an owner or occupier of land to an invitee when the owner or occupier prohibits the carrying or possession of weapons.
  • Constitutional Carry (SB 319).  Implements “constitutional carry” and preserves the right of private property owners to exclude or eject a person in possession of a weapon or firearm.  Other legislation to expand weapons carrying includes HB 1358 and SB 478.
  • Credit Repair Services Organization (SB 371).  Existing law does not allow for-profit credit repair services.  Reportedly, these for-profit companies often dispute all negative information on a person’s credit report, even if that information is accurate.  This diminishes the utility of credit reports for entities that use the reports when making leasing or other decisions.

  • Revise Applicability of Stalking (SB 197).  Georgia is reportedly one of the few states where a person cannot legally be stalked by someone they share a primary residence with.  SB 197 seeks to change this by revising the definition of “place or places” relative to the stalking criminal code to include the residence.  This has implications for the victim being able to seek a temporary protective order.

Legal Reform Legislation

Apportionment of Damages (HB 961)                                          
Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula

Scheduled for debate in the House on Feb-22
In August 2021, the Georgia Supreme Court upended Georgia’s longstanding apportionment statute.  In the opinion, the court ruled that only named defendants could be apportioned fault.  This increases exposure and liability for “deep pocket” defendants.  HB 961 restores the statute by allowing apportionment of damages in single-defendant lawsuits.  The law would become effective for all cases filed after the signature of the Governor.  The measure is eligible for a vote in the House but has been delayed for several days.
 
Nonjudicial Foreclosure of Time-Shares (HB 1088)                      
Rep. Stan Gunter, R-Blairsville

Favorably reported from the House Judiciary Cmte on Feb-15
HB 1088 authorizes the nonjudicial foreclosure for time-share estates.  In a subcommittee hearing on Feb-2, legislators expressed concern regarding title insurance availability after the nonjudicial foreclosure.  Similar legislation has also been filed in the Senate (SB 493).

Property Taxation & Valuation Legislation

Appeals of Property Tax Assessments (SB 511)                      
Sen. Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown

Assigned to the Senate Finance Cmte on Feb-15
SB 511 reduces the time a county board of equalization must notify the taxpayer of corrections or changes to the assessment after reviewing the appeal.  Current law allows 180 days after receipt of the appeal notice; SB 511 allows 90.  Current law gives the board 15 days to set a hearing date; SB 511 requires the hearing to take place within 90 days.  If the hearing fails to take place within 180 days from the date of appeal, the taxpayer’s asserted value stands.  Similar changes are made to the timeline specific to appeals to hearing officers.
 
Condemnation of Real Property (HB 137)                                    
Rep. Mitchell Scoggins, R-Rydal

Pending in the House Ways and Means Public Finance and Policy Subcmte
HB 137 clarifies that if a property owner is compensated for the governmental condemnation of their real property, the funds received as compensation are not subject to state income tax.  During the subcommittee hearing, there was a discussion about applying this only to income received by individuals, not businesses.  Condemnations around the Beltline were sited specifically.
 
Electronic Filings (HB 974)                                                                     
Rep. Joseph Gullett, R-Dallas

Sent back to the House Judiciary Cmte on Feb-14
HB 974 requires deeds, mortgages, liens, maps or plats, and state tax executions to be filed electronically with the clerk of the superior court.  During the Feb-10 hearing on the measure, there was debate about how the electronic mandate would impact individuals making filings in superior court.

Pending Property Taxation & Valuation Legislation
  • Values in Disaster Areas (HB 978 / HR 594).  Require the county board of tax assessors to conduct a full appraisal of all properties located in any declared federal disaster area to determine if the appraised value still reflects the fair market value after the disaster.

  • Residential Homesteaded Property (HB 887 / HR 571).  Allows for a cap on property taxes used for education for homesteaded property owned by senior citizens.

Land Use & Development Legislation

Agricultural Facilities as a Nuisance (HB 1150)                             
Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella

Hearing only in the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Cmte on Feb-15
HB 1150 limits the circumstances under which agricultural facilities and operations may be sued for a nuisance.  A similar effort failed to gain final approval in 2020.
 
Restrictions on Residential Dwellings (HB 1093)                        
Rep. Dale Washburn, R-Macon

Hearing only in the House Judiciary Cmte on Feb-16
HB 1093 prohibits local governments from enacting or enforcing any restrictions on land or dwellings that will be subject to a long-term residential rental agreement.  The legislation comes at the request of build-to-rent developers.  The legislation was the subject of a 3-hour hearing on Feb-16, which pitted local governments against real estate professionals and other pro-property rights advocates.
 
Local Regulatory Fees (HB 302)                                                    
Rep. Martin Momtahan, R-Dallas

Pending in the Senate Finance Cmte
HB 302 requires local governments to approximate the actual cost of regulatory services they provide.  The measure then mandates the local government use those fees exclusively for that regulatory activity and not general operations.  This measure has twice been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee but both meetings have been canceled.

Policy Discount for Resistant Structures (HB 1297)        
Rep. Matthew Gambill, R-Cartersville

Pending in the House Insurance Cmte
HB 1297 requires insurers to offer a premium discount or reduction for home or commercial property owners who build a new home or commercial property that better resists tornado or other catastrophic windstorm events.
 
Municipal Incorporations.  There are several active bills to incorporate new cities.  HB 841 to incorporate the City of East Cobb is eligible for enactment by the Governor.  On Feb-17 the Senate approved a measure to create the City of Lost Mountain (HB 826) and is schedule to debate the merits of the City of Vinings (HB 840) on Feb-22.  In the House, HB 839 to incorporate the City of Mableton is eligible for consideration by the full chamber. 

Pending Code Enforcement, Land Use, & Development Legislation
  • Board of Education Impact Fees (HB 1130 / HR 666).  Allows for development impact fees for education in “high growth” school systems.
  • Annexation and Residential Tenants (SB 354).  Requires all residential tenants occupying the to-be-annexed property to be notified of impending annexation.  The notification requirement is the responsibility of the property owner and must be sent via certified mail or statutory overnight delivery.  The owner must retain proof of notification.
  • Annexation Reform (HB 924).  Makes several changes to the annexation process, including allowing local school systems, counties, and municipal governing authorities to become parties to bond validation hearings.

  • Prohibit Deannexation (SB 348).  Prohibits the deannexation of territory from an existing municipal corporation to a newly incorporated municipality. 

Court & Legal Fees

Bill Jurisdiction Fee Applies To Status
HB 1117 Bryan Co. $5 technology fee State Court To Governor
HB 1191 Bremen Co. $10 technology fee Municipal Court To Governor
HB 1253 Lanier Co. $5 technology fee Probate Court To Governor
HB 1270 Atkinson co. $5 technology fee Probate Court To Governor