ELECTRONIC CASE FILING’S IMPACT ON DISPOSSESSORY LAWSUITS – DEKALB COUNTY
DeKalb County is one of the metro-Atlanta counties now offering electronic case filing for dispossessory (eviction) lawsuits. As anticipated, this has had a massive improvement in DeKalb’s ability to efficiently and effectively process dispossessories. DeKalb Magistrate and DeKalb State Court, unlike Fulton, are not yet mandatory e-filing courts. This means that in DeKalb you can still submit hard-copy (paper) case filings. Although DeKalb has their dispossessory form available online as a .pdf, the form is not a fillable form, which means that you must use Adobe to add typed text the document. You must also then print the form to sign and have notarized, being sure to scan the document afterward for uploading. The DeKalb form is relatively straightforward, with just a few items that need to be completed.
Like Fulton County, DeKalb courts use the Odyssey e-FileGA system (http://www.odysseyefilega.com). Odyssey requires you to register as a user and create a password. You then must select your court and select that you are starting a new case. The site will then ask for the names and address of the parties (the landlord and tenant). You then select what type of document you are filing (Dispossessory Affidavit) and upload the completed form. One very important step not to overlook is the “Optional Service” button. You must click on this if you want to add payment for service by the DeKalb Marshal. Odyssey will allow you to complete the filing without selecting this feature, so be careful.
In addition to the regular court filing and service fee, Odyssey charges additional convenience and service fees to file electronically (you don’t have to pay this fee if you file in person at the courthouse). Once you enter payment information you then can review your filing information before submitting. After you submit, you will see a brief box in the top right corner of the screen showing your “envelope number.” The envelope number is how the clerk’s office keeps track of each attempted filing (note: it’s not the same as your case number). You should also immediately receive a confirmation email that the filing has been submitted. This email also contains the envelope number.
The filing then goes into a “queue” for future review and approval by the clerk’s office. The Odyssey email states that the process can take 24-48 hours. In practice, I’ve only experienced at most a 24-hour delay for processing in DeKalb.
One of the main annoyances remaining in the DeKalb e-filing system is that neither the Tenant’s Answer nor the hearing notice get emailed to you automatically. Service of these filings is still through regular mail. In practice, this can provide a very short notice period for your hearing date. I received just a few days’ advance notice for a recent case of mine. This does not give you much preparation time, especially where the Tenant happens to file a counterclaim.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about how new e-filing procedures are affecting dispossessories in your county.