Landlord rights trump tenants in Atlanta
When her lease was renewed in March, SEAMS offered her a four-month lease, but later filed eviction paperwork. Harris felt that the reason for the non-renewal was not just the unpaid rent. She also felt she was being punished for contacting code enforcement.
“I wasn’t negligent, I was drowning,” Harris said during our phone conversation. “You don’t just bounce back from a job loss.”
Apartment complexes scattered across the metropolitan area, many owned by out-of-state private equity firms, focus on making a profit rather than providing safe and healthy housing for residents.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s recent housing investigation revealed predatory practices and what happens when tenants try to stand up to powerful landlords who are protected by Georgia’s lax regulations.
I’ve written before about the lack of political will to change state laws that favor landlords. In Georgia, tenants who withhold rent or break a lease risk eviction. Landlords have little reason to deal with tenant complaints as they rarely face any consequences.
The Atlanta City Council has called for everything from a tenants’ bill of rights that would include instituting rent control and the creation of a tenant advocacy office to establishing procedures for bringing criminal charges against negligent landlords.
A 2019 law prohibits landlords from retaliating against residents for asking for repairs or contacting code enforcement, but Ian Spiegelman believes retaliation is precisely the reason his lease isn’t being renewed at Mitchell’s. Park, an apartment complex in Smyrna.
Spiegelman has lived at the resort for five years, witnessing everything from rodent problems to poorly lit walkways. Every summer, he goes to the management with the same complaint: the swimming pool is not filled or unsuitable for swimming. The property manager told residents to use the community pool at a nearby park at a cost of $10 per person, he said. This year, he took photos of the pool filled with green water and posted them on social media.
“They’re not renewing me because I complained and posted pictures,” said Spiegelman, who has a consistent record of paying leases on time. Last month, Spiegelman’s complaints were forwarded to the headquarters of Eighteen Capital Group, the Kansas-based private equity firm that owns the resort. He said the property manager later told him he was harassing the management team using an expletive when he left a voicemail complaining about non-working lights in the laundry room.
Spiegelman’s lease ends in September, but he anxiously checks his door each day, fearing an eviction notice.
Eighteen Capital Group did not respond to my request for comment.
Georgia has a lot to do to protect the interests of tenants, especially with landlords adept at subterfuge or avoidance.
Harris shared a recent copy of her tenant newsletter in which residents had a chance to win a $100 gift card in a raffle.
The price of an entry? A positive review on Google.