Atlanta officials push for stronger prosecution of negligent apartment landlords

An aerial photograph shows the Pavilion Place apartments in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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An aerial photograph shows the Pavilion Place apartments in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Resolution introduced in response to AJC’s ‘Dangerous Dwellings’ investigation

The Atlanta City Council is set to vote on a measure Tuesday urging local authorities to crack down on negligent landlords, following an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation that found much of the region’s affordable rental housing has become barely habitable.

The resolution, sponsored by Councilwoman Andrea Boone with the support of most of the council, requests 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.”

The legislation is non-binding, but city officials said they hope the legal authorities see the importance of the issue and take more bad landlords to court. It says failing to provide decent living conditions for renters “should constitute negligent or criminal conduct and a violation of city and state laws enacted to protect tenants,” the resolution states.

ExploreRead the 'Dangerous Dwellings' investigation

“Hundreds of people in our community are living like animals. Mold, mildew. Our grandmothers, our children,” Boone said during a public safety committee meeting on Monday, holding up a copy of the AJC’s June 15 edition. “We are asking that all law enforcement get involved.”

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.

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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.

Credit: Screenshot via Atlanta City Council

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.

Credit: Screenshot via Atlanta City Council

Combined ShapeCaption
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.

Credit: Screenshot via Atlanta City Council

Credit: Screenshot via Atlanta City Council

The council’s public safety committee unanimously advanced the measure; the full council is set to take up the issue on Tuesday.

Other councilmembers chimed in with stories of derelict apartment complexes in their own districts. Councilwoman Marci Collier Overstreet said she knows of one rental property in her southwest Atlanta district that received 185 code violations on a single day.

“I know all of us can think of at least two or three complexes in our districts,” Councilman Byron Amos said, “that are only a doorstep away from being on the front page of the AJC.”