The Civil Division is tasked with the responsibility of serving civil processes received from the Courts of Douglas County, as well as other jurisdictions. In addition to process service, this division executes court orders that include the completion of Evictions, Writs of Possession and the collection of other judgments issued by the courts.
Civil Process Fees
|Serve copy of process and returning original
|Subpoena (Witness) without return
|Subpoena with return
|Levy or Writ of FIFA
|Search/Return Nullo Bona
|Executing a Writ of Possession
**Payment must be made in the form of a check or money order. We do not accept cash or credit cards.**
Civil Process FAQs
Common Civil Division Questions and Answers
Who can serve civil papers in Douglas County?
Process shall be served by the Sheriff of Douglas County where the action is brought or where the defendant is found, or by his deputy, or by any citizen of the United States specially appointed by the court for that purpose. The Magistrate Court of Douglas County requires that service must first be attempted by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, unless otherwise ordered. If the Sheriff’s Office is unsuccessful you may file a motion in the Magistrate Court seeking to use a private process server. The Magistrate Clerk’s office maintains a list of approved process servers that may be used in this county.
What are the types of service?
- PERSONAL SERVICE: shall be the first and foremost method attempted by the service officer.
- NOTORIOUS SERVICE: shall be attained by leaving copies of process at the defendants dwelling or usual place of abode with a person of suitable age and discretion residing there. A name and relationship must be noted. Minimum age 14 years old.
- CORPORATION: method shall be used if the action is against a business under the laws of the state. The defendant corporation can be served by leaving a copy of the action with the person in charge of the office.
- TACK & MAIL: (pertaining to dispossessory and foreclosure actions only) method shall be used when permitted by the court. The serving Officer will certify on the return of service that the defendant was served by posting a copy of affidavit and summons to the door of the premises designated in said affidavit and on the same day mailing a copy of same in the U.S. Mail.
- NON EST : shall be used when a diligent search has been made and the defendant was not to be found in the jurisdiction of this county.
Some types of Civil Process require personal service only.
- Probate/ Will
- Contempt of Court
- Child Custody/ Support/ Modification
- Jury Summons
- Bond Forfeiture
Can an action or summons be left with a minor child at my residence?
Yes. The courts have ruled that the action can be left with some person of suitable age. There is case law indicating that 14 is of suitable age.
What are the fees for serving a civil process?
These fees are set by the GA Legislature under O.C.G.A. 15-16-21 (2010)
15-16-21. Fees for sheriff’s services; disposition of fees
(a) For summoning each juror, grand or trial, drawn to serve at any regular term of any city, state, or superior court or any tales juror, grand or trial, drawn during any term of any city, state, or superior court, the sheriff shall receive the sum of $1.00. In all counties in this state where the sheriff is paid a salary only, this Code section shall apply as far as fees to be charged but all such fees shall be turned over to the county treasurer or fiscal officer of the county.
(b) For the services of the sheriff in civil cases, the following fees shall be charged:
(1) Serving copy of process and returning original, per copy……$ 50.00
(2) Action from another county, to be paid in advance……………50.00
(3) Summoning each witness……………………………………10.00
(4) Each levy or writ of fieri facias………………………….50.00
(5) Search and return of nulla bona……………………………20.00
(6) Serving summons of garnishment or rule against garnishee……..50.00
If more than one, for each additional copy…………………6.00
(7) Dispossessory ……………………….25.00
How many times will your office attempt to serve my papers?
We make two attempts on each civil action or summons, one daytime attempt and one evening or nighttime attempt. If service is not perfected our office will send the documents either back to the courts or to the plaintiff as requested.
Common Questions and Answers about Temporary Protective Orders
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used to get power and control over another person. It can be physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or emotional/psychological abuse. Georgia law defines domestic violence as any felony, simple battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, and criminal trespass.
Georgia law also requires that the violence occur between parents of the same child, current spouses, past spouses, parent and child, stepparent and stepchild, foster parent and foster child, or persons living, or who formerly lived, together.
What is emotional/psychological abuse?
Are you threatened with physical violence? Are you verbally humiliated or put down? Are you blamed for everything? Are you kept away from family and friends? Any of these can be signs of emotional/psychological abuse.
What is stalking?
Stalking is a pattern of behavior that causes a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of their family. The law defines stalking as following, placing under surveillance, or contacting another person without their consent causing them emotional distress by placing them in fear of their safety or the safety of a family member.
What can I do if I am a being abused?
The first thing you should do is make a safety plan.
What is a safety plan?
This is a plan to help you prepare to get out of an abusive relationship and stay safe.
What can I do legally if I am being abused or stalked?
In Superior Court, you can apply for a Protective Order, or file for divorce, if you are married to the person who abused or stalked you. In Magistrate Court, you can apply for a criminal warrant.
How do I apply for a Protective Order?
In Georgia, Temporary Protective Order (TPO) must be filed in the county the person your filing against lives. If the perpetrator lives out of state and you are a resident of Douglas or the crime occurred in Douglas County, it is possible you may be able to file your order in Douglas County. You may call the Domestic Violence Task Force at 678-715-1196 or SHARE House at 678-949-0626 for assistance in determining the correct jurisdiction for your case. Douglas County Task Force or SHARE House will assist you free of charge in preparing your petition, filing it with the court, and attend the 12 month hearing with you. Once the judge signs your order, and it is personally served on the abuser by the Sheriff’s Office, an Ex Parte Order will be in effect protecting you until you go before a Superior Court Judge on the date set for the hearing. The hearing will take place within 30 days of the date your petition was filed. During the hearing, the judge will hear both sides of the case and determine either to grant the order for 12 months or dismiss the case. You do not have to have and attorney to represent you for this petition however, you may if you so choose to at your expense.
What can a Protective Order do?
A Protective Order requires the person who abused or stalked you not to abuse, stalk or contact you. It can require the person to leave your home. It can also give you custody of your child(ren), child support, temporary use of property and do many other things.
What happens if the person who abused or stalked me does not obey the Order?
The person can be held in contempt of court. They can also be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor or felony.
Can the Protective Order last longer than 12 months?
Yes, if you file a Motion before your Protective Order ends, the Court, after a hearing with you and the person who abused or stalked you, may give you a Three Year or Permanent Order.
NOTE: ANY law enforcement officer can serve a TPO / Stalking order, such as a Sheriff’s deputy, city police officer, county police officer, state law enforcement officer, state trooper, etc. Also, it should be noted that the petitioner is provided with a copy of the order and that order can be served upon the respondent when the law enforcement copy is not available.
Common Questions and Answers Associated with Landlords / Tenants’ Rights, Evictions, and Foreclosures
Landlord and Tenants’ Rights
Is the landlord responsible for maintaining rental property and complying with local housing codes?
Yes. Many communities have local housing codes. These codes are local ordinances or laws that require owners of real property, including landlords, to maintain the property and make any necessary repairs. These codes typically require that residential property meet the minimum standards established in the code. The landlord’s responsibility is not only to deliver the rental property to the tenant in compliance with the housing codes but also to maintain compliance with the housing codes throughout the lease term.
Are landlords required to provide smoke detectors?
Effective June 1, 1994, an apartment, house, or condominium must contain a smoke detector. The smoke detector is to be located on the ceiling or wall at a point centrally located in the corridor or other area giving access to each group of rooms used for sleeping.
Are landlords required to provide appliances such as refrigerators or stoves for use in their rental property?
There is no state law requiring a landlord to furnish appliances such as refrigerators or stoves.
My landlord had my car towed. I was not parked in my authorized parking spot. Can he do this?
The landlord or an authorized person may have cars removed that are parked on the complex’s property if the car is trespassing or is parked in an unauthorized location. Under Georgia law (O.C.G.A. §44-1-13) before towing a car the property owner must have posted a notice on the property stating that unauthorized vehicles may be removed at the owner’s expense, the location where the car can be recovered, the cost to recover the car, and the form of payment accepted.
Can the landlord limit visitors to the tenant’s rental unit?
Generally, a landlord cannot limit visitors as long as they do not disturb other residents or violate the lease. However, a tenant should be careful not to have the same visitor spend the night too many times in a row without the landlord’s permission. The landlord may consider the visitor an unauthorized occupant. Certainly, a visitor should not get mail or other deliveries at the rental unit. A tenant should not allow nonresidents to receive mail at the tenant’s rental address since it will appear that they are living in the unit, which may be a violation of the lease. You should always refer to your lease agreement as to what may or may not be prohibited.
Is my landlord allowed to enter the apartment without notifying me first?
A tenant has the right to the exclusive use of the leased premises. Unless the lease states otherwise, the landlord can only enter the property if entry is necessary to cure a dangerous condition, prevent damage to the unit, or respond to an emergency on the premises. There is no legal requirement that a landlord notify a tenant prior to entering the unit in such emergency circumstances
Does a tenant have rights when there is not a written lease?
A tenant who occupies rental property with the landlord’s consent and makes rent payments without a written lease is a “tenant-at-will.” Georgia landlord tenant laws, including eviction laws and security deposits laws, still apply. A tenant-at-will has the right to occupy and use the rented property according to the agreement between the landlord and the tenant. When the lease does not state when the tenancy will end, as usually happens when there is not a written lease, Georgia law (O.C.G.A. §44-7-7) specifies the notice the landlord must give to terminate or change the original rental agreement. A landlord who has a tenant-at-will must give a sixty (60) days notice to the tenant before seeking to terminate the agreement or change any term of the original agreement. This means the landlord must give a tenant-at-will sixty (60) days notice before imposing a rent increase or requesting that the tenant move. A tenant-at-will must give a thirty (30) day notice to the landlord to terminate or change the original agreement. To protect your legal rights any and all notices should be in writing. When a tenant-at-will fails to pay rent the landlord is not required to give the sixty (60) days notice, the landlord can demand possession and immediately file a dispossessory affidavit seeking possession in court.
Utilities are included in my rent. Is that legal?
When utilities are included in the rent, the tenant does not pay the utility company directly and instead the monthly rental amount includes payment for the utilities. The utilities are provided by the landlord and the costs are being paid from the rent. It is important that the tenant understand which utilities are being paid by the landlord. Every lease should identify who is responsible for paying for services such as water, electric, garbage, natural gas, telephone, internet service, and cable television.
I rent an apartment in a complex with more than 20 units. My unit does not have a water meter. My landlord bills me for water. I think I am paying more than my fair share of the water bill. What can I do?
Under Georgia law (O.C.G.A. §12-5-180.1) your landlord can have only one water meter for the apartment complex and charge tenants for water usage and waste-water service, plus a reasonable fee for establishing, servicing, and billing for the water service. The amount billed includes water used by the tenants and water used in the complex’s common areas. The amount the landlord collects from each tenant must not exceed the amount the landlord is charged for water and waste-water service for the building and the common areas, plus the landlord’s fee.
My tenants have not paid rent in several months. Can I turn off their utilities?
No. Under Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-14.1), a landlord who wants to force tenants to move must go through court and follow the dispossessory process. A landlord who terminates or suspends a tenant’s utility service prior to the final judgment in a dispossessory action has broken the law and may be subject to a fine up to $500.
Evictions and the Dispossessory Process
My friend will not leave or my child has graduated from high school, refuses to get a job, refuses to further his education and refuses to leave the home. Do I have to have him evicted?
The answer to this question depends on whether or not a landlord tenant agreement has been established. For instance, does he cut grass to help out the home? Does he perform any duties at the home in lieu of rent? Does he contribute to the household in any way? If the answer to these questions is no, then he does not have to be evicted and he must vacate the home at your request.
However, if you have required him to perform certain duties at the home as a condition of staying there, then you have entered into a landlord tenant agreement and you must start the eviction process.
I do not have the money to pay my rent. My landlord says my furniture will be placed on the street if I don’t pay the rent by the due date. Can my landlord do this?
No, the landlord cannot put your possessions on the street without a court order. A dispossessory proceeding can be brought by the landlord that could result in your being evicted. The landlord would then remove your property from the premises, if a court has ordered that they may do so. Your landlord cannot file a dispossessory for nonpayment of rent until the rent is past due.
My landlord removed all my possessions and changed the locks on the apartment. He did not give me any warning or go through the courts to evict me. What can I do?
Self help evictions, including changing the locks, are illegal in Georgia. You may file a lawsuit against the landlord for any damages you suffer due to his wrongful conduct. It is best if this type of action is pursued with the assistance of an attorney. If you cannot obtain an attorney, you can file a claim in the Magistrate Court of the county where the landlord is located, if the damage is $15,000 or less. If the damage exceeds $15,000, the action should be filed in State or Superior Court.
When can a landlord begin legal proceedings to evict a tenant?
A landlord can file a dispossessory action to remove a tenant if the tenant fails to pay rent, violates a term of the lease, or remains in possession after the lease has ended. The grounds for evicting a tenant are nonpayment of rent, failure to surrender the premises at the end of the lease term, or breach of the lease, including any rules that are part of the lease.
What must a landlord do to evict a tenant?
Before contacting the court to begin eviction proceedings, the landlord should read the lease and be familiar with its provisions and comply with its terms regarding notice and termination. Once the terms of the lease have been followed, Georgia law requires a landlord to go through court to remove a tenant. First, before filing a dispossessory action, the landlord must demand that the tenant immediately give up possession and vacate. This demand is best made in writing. If the tenant refuses or fails to give up possession, the landlord or the landlord’s agent or attorney may go to the magistrate court and file a dispossessory affidavit under oath. The affidavit states:
- The name of the landlord,
- The name of the tenant,
- The reason the tenant is being removed
What is “service” and why is it important?
After the landlord files the dispossessory affidavit, it must be legally delivered to the tenant. That delivery is called service. In most counties, the sheriff will see that the tenant is served. There are three ways in which the summons can be served on the tenant:
It can be delivered personally to the tenant,
It can be delivered to a competent adult who resides in the unit, or
The summons can be tacked on the door of the home and on the same day sent by first class mail to the tenant’s address. The third type of service is called tack and mail and is appropriate only if no one is at home when the sheriff attempts personal service. If the dispossessory warrant was served by tack and mail, and the tenant did not file an answer or appear in court, the court may not award rent or other money damages to the landlord. The court can still order the tenant to move.
Once a tenant is served with a dispossessory affidavit, what should they do?
The court papers served on the tenant should state that the tenant may answer either orally or in writing within seven (7) days from the date of service. If the seventh day is a Saturday, Sunday, or a legal holiday, the answer is required to be filed on the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or a legal holiday. If the tenant fails to respond at the end of the seventh day, the defendant is in default. The court can then grant the landlord a writ of possession and the plaintiff can remove the tenant immediately. If the tenant answers the summons, a trial of the issues will be held in accordance with the procedures of the court.
I have been served with a dispossessory warrant. It states that I can file an answer. What is an answer?
An answer is your response to your landlord’s dispossessory warrant. It can be written or you can tell your response to the court clerk and have it written for you if you are unable to read and / or write. The filing of an answer may not be conditioned on payment of rent. Payment of the rent alleged to be owed does not have to be made with the answer. The answer is your opportunity to state why you do not feel your landlord is legally entitled to have you evicted. If your landlord is seeking to evict you alleging that you violated your lease, your answer should state why you believe that you did not violate the lease. If an answer is filed, the court will schedule a hearing in which the tenant and landlord can each present their case. Anyone who knowingly and willingly makes a false statement in an answer could be found guilty of a misdemeanor. Where an answer has been filed, even if it does not contain an adequate legal defense, the clerk must treat it as an answer until a judge determines otherwise. Before a judge can strike an answer as legally inadequate the tenant must be given notice and opportunity for a hearing on whether the answer filed has legal merit.
How long do I have to file an answer?
A tenant must answer a dispossessory within seven days of service. A tenant has until the close of business on the seventh day to file the answer. You need to contact the court in which dispossessory affidavit was filed to determine their business hours. Some courts have business hours other than the traditional eight-to-five each day. Georgia law (O.C.G.A. §1-3-1) provides the method for counting the seven days. The first day (the day of service) is not counted but the last day is counted. If the last day falls on Saturday or Sunday, the party has through the following Monday. When the last day prescribed for such action falls on a public and legal holiday, the party has until the next business day.
My tenant was served with the dispossessory. When can I require them to move?
The tenant is allowed to remain in possession of the rental property until there is a court order that she vacates. If the dispossessory warrant was served and the tenant did not file an answer, the court can issue a “Writ of Possession” after the time to file an answer expires. If the tenant files an answer, the court will schedule a date for a hearing. Once an answer has been filed, and a hearing has been held, the court will issue its decision. If the court rules for the landlord, the tenant will be ordered to move within seven (7) days and may be ordered to pay past due rent.
The court gave me a “Writ of Possession” which states that my tenants are no longer entitled to remain in my rental house. How do I get my tenants and their property out of my house?
The “Writ of Possession” allows the landlord to remove from his property the tenant and their personal property. The landlord can remove the tenant and those persons occupying the property. Personal property includes the tenant’s general belongings such as clothing, furniture, dishes, and other household items. The landlord is responsible for the cost of the eviction and can use the service offered by the Sheriff or hire a private company. Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-55) states that when the tenant’s personal property is removed from the rental unit it is to be placed on some portion of the landlord’s land. If the landlord and the officer executing the warrant agree, the tenant’s property may be placed on land other than that owned by the landlord such as the sidewalk or street. The landlord owes the tenant no duty to protect the personal property removed from the unit. After the “Writ of Possession” is executed and the property removed from the rental property, the tenant’s personal property is considered to be abandoned.
It is important that when a landlord removes a tenant’s property that he place it on land outside the unit. The landlord is not required to protect the property from third-parties or the weather. It is very important that the landlord set the property outside the unit. A landlord who does not do so may be sued by the tenant for conversion. For example, it is improper for a landlord to hire persons to remove the property and transport it elsewhere. The tenant’s property must be placed on the land outside the rented unit.
The court ruled for my landlord at our dispossessory hearing. How long do I have to move?
By ruling for your landlord, the court found that your landlord did have the legal right to have you removed from the property. The court may also have entered a judgment that you owe money to your landlord. The money judgment can be enforced by garnishment or other methods. The “Writ of Possession” issued by the court allows the landlord to have you and your property removed from the rental unit. Your landlord cannot execute the writ; remove you from the property, until the expiration of the seventh (7th) day after the judgment was entered or longer if the court orders. Once judgment has been entered, even if you pay the landlord the money, you can still be removed from the property.
The court awarded my landlord possession of the lot on which my mobile home is located. What will happen?
Under Georgia Law (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-59) if a court issues a Writ of Possession for property upon which a tenant has placed a mobile home or other transportable housing, the tenant must move the same within ten days after the final order is entered. If the tenant does not do so, the landlord is entitled to have such transportable housing moved from the property at the expense of the tenant by a common carrier licensed by the Public Service Commission. There will be a lien upon the mobile home for the moving fees and storage expenses in favor of the person performing such services. Such a lien may be foreclosed in the same manner as special liens on personal property. Storage fees are not to exceed $4.00 per day.
Foreclosure and Tenants
I have paid my rent to my landlord every month. Today I found out that my landlord has not been paying the mortgage and the house has been foreclosed upon. I have nine months left on my lease. What will happen to me now?
On May 20, 2009, President Obama signed a new federal law protecting tenants when the property they rent is sold at a foreclosure sale, The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA). The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act extended the PTFA protections until December 31, 2014. The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act is a federal law but it applies to eviction proceedings. Under this new law, the tenant’s lease does not end when the property is sold at foreclosure. For example, if a tenant living in the foreclosed property has a lease with nine months remaining, the new owner cannot evict the tenant until the lease expires. If the tenant has a lease the purchaser at foreclosure must allow the tenant to remain until the end of the lease term. The only exception is if the unit is sold to a purchaser who will occupy the property as their residence and, even in this case, the tenant is to receive ninety (90) days notice before having to vacate. If the existing lease has less than ninety (90) days remaining before it expires, the tenant must still be given a ninety (90) day notice before having to move.
I purchased a foreclosed property with a tenant living in the home. Does the tenant have to pay the rent?
Following foreclosure, the tenant must pay rent to the new owner or face eviction. The rent owed is the amount stated in the lease with the old owner. If the tenant does not pay rent, the landlord can go to court to have the tenant evicted without giving the ninety (90) days notice.
The home I rent was sold at foreclosure. I do not have a written lease. I have been told I have to move immediately, is that correct?
No, at a minimum you should be given a 90-day notice before you have to move. If you do not have a written lease, you are a Tenant-at-Will. The new owner is now your landlord and must give you a ninety (90) day notice before you have to vacate. This rule also applies to a month to month tenancy.
Writ of Fieri Facias & Personal Property Levy
Writ of Fieri Facias
We do not have any authority to enforce a judgment. Your judgment has to be converted to a Fi. Fa. by the Clerk of the Court where you obtained your judgment.
A Writ of Fieri Facias (Fi. Fa.) is a court order commanding the Sheriff to collect a judgment by either getting the money or to levy and sell sufficient property of the person(s) named in the Fi. Fa. to satisfy your judgment. To “levy” means to seize or attach property by judicial order and to then convert the seized property into money through a Sheriff’s Sale to satisfy the judgment.
Most property seized (levied upon) is personal property, but under certain circumstances, we can also seize real property.
Requirements for a Personal Property Levy:
In general we will make a money demand on the defendant by a personal contact with the person(s) named in the Fi. Fa. or by leaving an Intent to Levy letter at the person(s) home if we are unable to make personal contact. This is an optional process / service that we provide and in some cases gets results. If the defendant says that they cannot or will not pay, then we will return the Fi. Fa. to you with the results of our money demand.
It is then up to you to provide us with any known assets of the defendant that are unencumbered (no security interest, no UCC filing, no secured debt, no liens, etc.). You can take your original Fi. Fa. to the Georgia Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Division in Hapeville, GA to determine if the defendant has any motor vehicles that are either in his/her name or the name of the corporation (if applicable).
Once you have determined any assets you must:
- Give us a letter requesting that we do a levy, describing these assets and the address where you would like us to do the levy.
- Either give us a printout from the Motor Vehicle Division showing vehicles owned by the defendant or a letter certifying that an UCC search has been done and that there are no liens on the assets you are asking us to levy upon.
Prior to levying, the plaintiff must pay certain fees in advance. They are generally, but not limited to:
- Legal Advertising in The Douglas County Sentinel for 4 weeks
- Wrecker and wrecker lot storage fees if a vehicle is to be seized
- Storage fees at a place deemed safe, secure and easily accessible by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
- Labor and transportation cost for the physical seizure and movement of any property levied upon, if applicable.
All of this will be discussed with you by the Civil Division Supervisor prior to levying.
After the Levy
Once the levy has been done, the items are placed in a secure area in Douglas County selected by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and paid by you, or in a wrecker lot in the case of vehicles.
The seized property is then advertised for 4 consecutive weeks in The Douglas County Sentinel and then sold on the 1st Tuesday of the month on the courthouse steps at the Douglas County Courthouse.
While we provide some assistance to you, we are unable to do skip tracing or to identify specific property to levy upon. These two tasks must be done by you. We do make a money demand. Please refer to O.C.G.A. § 9-13-50 and O.C.G.A. § 9-13-16.
Civil Division Contact Information
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
8470 Earl D. Lee Blvd
Douglasville, GA 30134