Shared from the 10/17/2018 Savannah Morning News eEdition

Georgia courts limit landlord liability

Recent decisions in Georgia’s appellate courts have reiterated that landlords may be able to rely on the language in their leases to protect them from frivolous lawsuits.

Two of the cases that Georgia appellate courts decided this summer involved tenants suing their apartment complexes for damages related to injuries that occurred on the premises.

In Langley v. MP Spring Lake, LLC, the tenant sued her apartment complex after hurting her foot on a crumbling curb in the common area. However, the tenant waited two years after the date of injury to file suit. That would have been acceptable under the two-year default statute of limitations for personal-injury claims in Georgia. In this case, the tenant’s lease included a clause that stated that “any legal action against Management or Owner must be instituted within one year of the date any claim or cause of action arises and that any action filed after one year from such date shall be time barred as a matter of law.”

The tenant argued that the clause only referred to actions arising from a breach of the lease and did not apply to personal-injury claims, but the Court of Appeals disagreed, noting that the phrase “any legal action” encompassed any and all legal actions including personal-injury claims. The Langley court case further stated that previously decided cases that upheld contracts with longer or shorter terms than Georgia law supported this decision. Such a prohibition would only apply if the term was in violation of a statute or if the General Assembly deemed it contrary to public policy, the court argued.

Based on this decision, landlords may want to review their leases and limit the span of their liability where applicable. Knowing that the courts will enforce suit-time provision of apartment complex leases may help with predictability of litigation and record retention.

The Court of Appeals again aided apartment complexes in Pinnock

v. Kings Carlyle Club Apartments. There, the tenant sued for fraud based on oral statements made by the leasing agent. The tenant claimed that the leasing agent said that the neighborhood was safe, but the tenant was injured two months later when two men in the parking lot fired numerous shots through the wall, striking her once in the leg. The tenant claims that the leasing agent knowingly made false claims about the complex’s safety that induced her to rent an apartment.

The lease included a “merger” or “entire agreement” clause that stated that “this lease, any referenced addenda, and any addenda separately signed or referring to the lease or apartment shall constitute the entire agreement between the parties, and no prior negotiations, representations, or oral statements are binding.” The tenant attempted to argue that she was not bound by the terms of the lease because her husband signed it and she didn’t. But the appellate court rejected this argument, stating that she could not claim to have been fraudulently induced into entering a contract while at the same time claiming not to be bound by the terms of the contract.

This decision will help apartment complexes manage expectations about which statements they will be held accountable for. If your lease does not already include a “merger” or “entire agreement” clause, you may want to add one.

Combined, these decisions should encourage landlords, especially those in large apartment complexes with professional lease agreements, that the courts may uphold the validity of their lawful contracts. Even if all is well in the tenant-landlord relationship, landlords should review the language in their contracts with a trusted attorney to make sure they avoid any legal traps and encourage their tenants to carefully read their leases to avoid confusion and potential quarrels.


If a landlord is facing a potential lawsuit, it is important to have an attorney review the lease as soon as possible. An attorney may discover a defense that will deter the tenant from seeking action or shield the landlord from a merit-less claim if the tenant files suit.

Attorney Lucas D. Bradley is an associate at Bouhan Falligant whose practice focuses on civil and business litigation. He can be reached at 912-644-5787 or

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