County commissioners vowed to take action Tuesday after hearing emotional testimony from tenants of three troubled apartment complexes in South Cobb where the landlord is facing up to $85,000 in fines and potential jail time over the condition of the buildings.
The three complexes—Kingsley Village, Parkview and Hunters Grove Apartments—are all located near Riverside Parkway, not far from Six Flags amusement park.
They also said they were threatened with eviction for withholding rent, seeking legal help or filing complaints with the county.
Stephanie Burris said she lives with her brother and his 16-year-old daughter at Parkview Apartments.
She said they have no smoke alarm, a peeling bathtub, and a hole in her niece’s window that lets in bugs and cold air. On top of that, she said the building’s management is threatening to evict her brother if he doesn’t compensate the company for money they say was stolen by the previous manager.
“It’s his word against theirs and he’s terrified,”said Burris. “He’s working, he’s trying to keep a roof over his daughter’s head.”
Nandi Jackson, wiping away tears, said she has been living with raw sewage leaking into her apartment every time her neighbors flush the toilet.
“I live in the worst place,” said Jackson, who described herself as a disable Navy veteran.
She said the building management has ignored a court order to move her to a new unit and are threatening to evict her for refusing to pay rent. She added that she was pregnant and feared for the health of her child.
The landlord, Kerrison Chin, has racked up 85 county citations and has a history of being uncooperative with code enforcement, said county spokesman Ross Cavitt. A Cobb Magistrate Court hearing is scheduled for March 7.
Chin could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Carter Clayton, said he could not comment and said his client resides in Canada.
Jennifer Yankulova, a senior attorney with Cobb Legal Aid, said she has been in touch with “several dozen” tenants of the three apartment complexes about the living conditions there.
“This is by far the worst we’ve seen,” she said.
Monica DeLancy, founder of the Riverside Renters Association, an advocacy group for tenants in the community near Six Flags, and a parent resource specialist with Cobb County Schools, said the apartments kept coming up in discussions with the community about unsafe housing.
She was particularly frustrated that the magistrate court had twice rescheduled Chin’s hearing after residents made an effort to show up for it.
“The same court, when the tenants go in there for eviction, they’re only given seven days to either have the money or move out,” DeLancy told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week. “They’re not given continuation. They’re not given time to review their case. But code violators get a reset.”
Several other residents said they depend on federal assistance, which the building manager told them was paid late this year. The residents blame the partial government shutdown. Now, they are being assessed for late fees they cannot afford.
Commissioner Lisa Cupid said Tuesday she has been working with public safety, code enforcement and public health to address the issues at the apartments, but blamed Georgia law for being more favorable to landlords than tenants. She also feared that condemning the apartments would put people on the street.
“I know no one, no family, should ever live in those conditions,” Cupid said. “But I know that we have a dearth of affordable housing here and people need a place to stay.”
Chairman Mike Boyce said the board was moved by the tenants’ stories and promised to do “everything we can” to address the issues.
“There comes a time when the people expect their government to do something,” Boyce said.
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