Atlanta City Council passes resolution urging crackdown of negligent landlords

Councilwoman Andrea Boone, whose district covers much of southwest Atlanta, holds up a copy of the AJC's June 15 newspaper that features part of the Dangerous Dwellings investigation.

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Councilwoman Andrea Boone, whose district covers much of southwest Atlanta, holds up a copy of the AJC's June 15 newspaper that features part of the Dangerous Dwellings investigation.

Action taken in response to AJC investigation

The Atlanta City Council on Tuesday formally urged law enforcement officials to pursue charges against negligent apartment landlords, in response to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation into the issue.

The city’s legislative body approved a resolution requesting that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ office “investigate opportunities to criminally charge property owners/landlords” who violate the city’s housing code and provide poor maintenance and security. It also urges the Atlanta Police Department and the city solicitor’s office to “diligently pursue all complaints against neglectful landlords.”

A year-long AJC investigation found more than 250 of the area’s apartments were persistently dangerous, beset by violent crime and often horrific living conditions. Tens of thousands of residents, including at least 13,000 children, live in these apartments in Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.

ExploreRead the 'Dangerous Dwellings' investigation

About 160 of those complexes accounted for one in every five homicides in metro Atlanta in recent years, the investigation determined. At least three-fourths of the region’s most dangerous apartments belong to private equity firms or other absentee investors.

“They’re getting rich off of the backs of poor people,” said Atlanta City Councilwoman Andrea Boone, who introduced the resolution.

Atlanta is the first local government to pass legislation in response to the “Dangerous Dwellings” series. The resolution is non-binding and does not recommend specific changes to city codes or procedures.

Boone said she and other councilmembers hope to set up a meeting with Willis as a first step toward long-term reforms that could require changes on the local, state and federal level. City code enforcement and the Atlanta solicitor’s office have done “a fine job” of citing landlords who won’t clean up properties, Boone said, but owners don’t bother to show up for court.

“I’m hoping that this legislation will actually send them to court,” said Councilwoman Marci Collier Overstreet. “Forget about just taking their properties away. I don’t mind it including jail time. It’s horrid the way they’re treating our Atlanta citizens. It’s deeper than what people know.”

In 2020, Boone had to introduce City Council legislation to ensure the owner of Adamsville neighborhood apartment complex Fairburn Gordon cleaned up 6-foot piles of trash. This complex is partially owned by Ben Beroukhai, a landlord featured in the AJC series.

“I want these people to be prosecuted,” Boone said. “Everyone should have a safe, sanitary environment. This is a clear violation of human rights.”

Boone’s most common constituent complaint is about unsafe, unhealthy living conditions, she said. The problem is so widespread and is such a drain on city money that area leaders and experts need to find new approaches, city officials say.

Solving this problem during the ongoing affordable housing crisis will be difficult, said City Councilman Antonio Lewis. About 15 years ago, he lived with his sister and her son in a two-bedroom apartment at what is now Pavilion Place, a Cleveland Avenue complex that Beroukhai also owns, which the AJC featured in its investigation. It was the only place that would accept her as a tenant, he said.

Tearing down these derelict apartments could leave families with even fewer places to live than they have now.

“What I would like to do is invest in them, fix them,” Lewis said.

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Miracle Fletcher poses for a portrait in front of Trestletree Apartments North in Atlanta on Wednesday, April 20, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: ARVIN TEMKAR / AJC

Miracle Fletcher poses for a portrait in front of Trestletree Apartments North in Atlanta on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.   (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: ARVIN TEMKAR / AJC

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Miracle Fletcher poses for a portrait in front of Trestletree Apartments North in Atlanta on Wednesday, April 20, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: ARVIN TEMKAR / AJC

Credit: ARVIN TEMKAR / AJC

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May 12, 2022 Atlanta - Alexis Cargile and her son Logan, 7, hold hands as they walk to their apartment home after getting off from a school bus outside The Hills at Greenbriar Apartments in Southwest Atlanta on Thursday, May 12, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

May 12, 2022 Atlanta - Alexis Cargile and her son Logan, 7, hold hands as they walk to their apartment home after getting off from a school bus outside The Hills at Greenbriar Apartments in Southwest Atlanta on Thursday, May 12, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
May 12, 2022 Atlanta - Alexis Cargile and her son Logan, 7, hold hands as they walk to their apartment home after getting off from a school bus outside The Hills at Greenbriar Apartments in Southwest Atlanta on Thursday, May 12, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Dangerous Dwellings: An AJC investigation

As violent crime escalated in the city and its suburbs, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sought to uncover why so many of them took place at certain apartment complexes.

Reporters embarked on a year-long effort which included collecting crime data from 15 area law enforcement agencies and code enforcement records from 19 jurisdictions. They also analyzed lawsuits, property records, corporate documents and files from local and state housing agencies. More than 250 persistently unsafe and unhealthy apartment complexes were identified.

The findings are detailed in a three-part series, Dangerous Dwellings, available free on AJC.com and the AJC ePaper.

Our reporting:

The AJC’s multipart “Dangerous Dwellings” investigation examined 250 apartment complexes and found 162 of them accounted for one in every five homicides in metro Atlanta during recent years. At least three-fourths of the region’s most dangerous apartments, the investigation found, belong to private equity firms or other absentee investors who follow a business model that typically relies on raising rents, performing merely cosmetic renovations and limiting spending on security and maintenance. Legislation was introduced in City Council in response to the investigative series.