Dear Consumer Ed:
My family and I have been living in an extended-stay motel for the past six months. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic I lost my job, and my husband’s work hours were cut in half. We have not been able to pay our motel bill for the last two weeks. The manager is now threatening to kick us out if we cannot pay by the end of the week. Is this allowed? Do we have to move out immediately?
Consumer Ed says:
A hotel keeper can generally require a guest to leave immediately if the person is not paying his or her bill. The hotel keeper’s remedies to enforce this may include potentially having the individual removed from the premises by law enforcement and no court action is required. However, if someone has been living at an extended-stay hotel for a period of time that is not regarded as a traditional hotel stay and is using the unit as his or her primary residence, the relationship may be considered landlord-tenant, with the rights and obligations provided under Georgia’s landlord-tenant law. In such cases, the extended-stay hotel (the “landlord”) is not allowed to just kick out a guest (“tenant”). Instead, it is obligated to follow a formal dispossessory (eviction) process before it can evict the tenant. That means a hearing in front of a judge is required before any eviction occurs. If one is required to move out immediately before such a determination is made, the hotel may be potentially in violation of Georgia landlord-tenant law if it is later determined by a court that the hotel guest had the rights of a tenant.
Many Georgia courts have currently suspended eviction proceedings due to the public health emergency. Anyone served with an eviction notice should immediately contact the local court to see what the policy is at this time.
Those having difficulty in situations like the one described may want to contact Atlanta Legal Aid, the Georgia Legal Services Program or a private attorney. The State Bar of Georgia (404-527-8700 or 800-334-6865) also operates an attorney referral program that may be helpful.
A number of charities, non-profit organizations and government organizations provide rental assistance and other resources for low-income families. Here is a partial list:
For more information about evictions and other landlord-tenant issues, see the Georgia Landlord-Tenant Handbook published by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA). DCA also publishes a Fair Housing Brochure in both English and Spanish.
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