The Georgia General Assembly in 2012 passed amendments to O.C.G.A. § 13-1-11 to prevent what its sponsors considered excessive attorney’s fees in certain cases.
Section 13-1-11 validates obligations to pay attorney’s fees included in promissory notes, security deeds, bills of sale and other evidences of indebtedness including, according to caselaw, leases. An attorney’s fee provision may provide for fees in a stated percentage, up to 15%, of the amount owed. A provision for “reasonable attorney’s fees” that does not specify a percentage means 15 percent of the first $500.00 of principal and interest owing and 10 percent of any remainder. A creditor seeking to enforce payment of attorney’s fees under such a provision must, after maturity of the obligation, notify the debtor in writing that the creditor intends to enforce the attorney’s fees provision and that the debtor has 10 days to pay the full amount due, without the attorney’s fees.
Under the 2012 amendments, if the calculation of “reasonable attorney’s fees” results in an award of attorney’s fees exceeding $20,000.00, then the debtor may petition the court for a determination regarding the reasonableness of the fees. The creditor must then submit an affidavit to the court with evidence of the fees, and the debtor may counter with its own affidavit. The court shall, with or without a hearing as the court may elect, award the amount of attorney’s fees “reasonable and necessary” for asserting the rights of the creditor. This procedure for determining reasonable attorneys’ fees does not apply to a party against whom a default judgment is to be entered pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-55 and does not provide an independent basis for suit.