Georgia could see a drizzle or a typhoon after the moratorium is lifted


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The available numbers point to a possible disaster: According to a survey by the Census Bureau, more than one in five tenants in Georgia is in arrears with their rent payments. But how bad it will be depends on a long list of variables – how quickly the courts sift through arrears from eviction requests, how many landlords are willing to negotiate, how efficient the counties are in paying rent subsidies, and how many members of Congress are willing to heed President Joe Biden’s call to reinstate the temporary moratorium.

These questions make preparation difficult, said Lindenmayer.

The pandemic has caused the loss of tens of millions of jobs across the country, and many of them have not returned or have only returned with limited hours.

The eviction ban was intended to keep people off the streets and out of homeless shelters and other overcrowded housing during the public health crisis.

Not everyone could benefit from it – only tenants who provided evidence that they had defaulted on rent due to the pandemic.

But neither the federal eviction moratorium, which ended a year ago, nor the Centers for Disease Prevention’s eviction ban, which was lifted Saturday, prevented evictions from courts in Georgia.

In DeKalb County, 145 eviction suits were due when Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson signed an emergency ordinance on Friday banning a local eviction ban for an additional 60 days. Around 1,650 more are pending at the Marshal’s Office there. DeKalb officials say a cyber attack earlier this year dramatically slowed the distribution of state rent subsidies.

DiscoverHuge amounts of federal funds are available, but little has been paid out

Evictions are also pending in other areas, including Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb and Clayton. Although many counties did not move tenants during the moratoria, many landlords and property managers already have court orders in their hands that allow them to kick out some of the defaulting tenants. They are just waiting for the police officers to carry out the orders.

Others have filed the legal papers required to evict tenants but are waiting for their court day. Before the hearings are scheduled, tenants have one week to express their views. If this is the case, trial dates will be set. But if they don’t – or lose in the process – they have a week to move out.

“These things scare me,” said Protip Biswas, vice president of homelessness for the United Way of Greater Atlanta, which has paid millions of dollars in rental assistance. “We really don’t know the extent of the emergency.”

If the Census Bureau poll paints an accurate picture, more than 400,000 Households in the Atlanta metropolitan area are in arrears with the rent. But nobody expects the number of actual evictions to come close to that. Many tenants take out last-minute deals with landlords, borrow money for rent or raise funds in some other way.

Cathryn Marchman, CEO of Partner for the home, a nonprofit group that coordinates the city of Atlanta’s homelessness response, said their organization saw evidence of evictions driving people homeless before the ban expired. And it does so as the number of COVID-19 cases, fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant, is rising again.

The group has placed more people in apartments in the past six months than in a typical year, she said.

According to Princeton University’s evacuation lab, ethnic minorities and women are disproportionately affected by displacement during the pandemic.

An eviction can haunt a tenant for years and limit future decisions, said Elora Raymond, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech who studies housing issues.

It can also have wider implications for mental health, school performance, and birth weight, said Emily Lemmerman, a research specialist at Eviction Lab.

Kathy Jones, 65, has an earlier eviction on her file but has managed to find a place in Canton. She lost her full-time job and took a part-time job. But she is unable to maintain her payments. In June she received an eviction notice. “Nobody has rented me before,” she said. “I have no idea where to go.”

However, many say it is important to remember that it is not only tenants who are affected by the eviction moratorium. Only a few landlords can remain solvent for long if they do not collect rent.

In DeKalb, CEO Michael Thurmond admitted that Judge Jackson’s local moratorium would “add to the financial burden and stress on landlords, especially our mom-and-pop owners.” But he said he plans to propose at the district commission’s meeting on Tuesday that DeKalb’s tenant-landlord support coalition pay 100% of all overdue rents up to 12 months and increase future rent payments to three months.

Rental apartment owners want to negotiate – especially when federal funds are available to sweeten the pot, said attorney Lynn Wilson. “And there will probably be a lot of encouragement from the courts for that,” she said.

“We are not seeing a tsunami of displacement, as many have predicted,” she said. “These owners have little incentive to evacuate. Eviction is always the last resort. “

The backlog of cases alone could give tenants more time and spread the crisis over many months, she said.

“Ultimately, my clients want an apartment to be rented and that it be a profitable asset,” said Wilson.

The number of evictions is always greater than the actual evictions, said Kendall Bagley, spokeswoman for the Atlanta Apartment Association.

Much of the hardship could be avoided if local governments and organizations became more efficient at paying out the millions of dollars in federal rental aid, said Mara Block, senior attorney for the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.

Advocates for the poor even before the pandemic spoke about the lack of affordable housing in the Atlanta metropolitan area. While housing construction focused on the wealthier, many low-income workers and renters spent more than a third of their income on housing – putting them on a financial tightrope.

Now many tenants owe months of rent – too much to quickly pay off, even if they get a job.

“For people who lived hand-to-mouth prior to the pandemic, losing a job or missing a paycheck can quickly get out of hand,” Block said.

Ashlee Reynolds, a single mother in Decatur, has not been able to afford her rent since March. When she tried to make partial payments, the owners only took the full amount.

As a receptionist in a doctor’s office, she lost her paycheck for months when the practice was closed. When she was behind on her $ 1,200 rent, the landlord added $ 5 for every day she was late.

Months after her application, the rental support money was received and an agreement was reached. The government will pay about $ 11,100 – 60% of their subsequent rent, plus August and September, according to legal aid attorney Lindsey Siegel, who Reynolds negotiated with her landlord.

Reynolds pays the rest.

“I tried to keep a positive face for my children,” she said. “We were just so far behind.”

Here are the steps for eviction for nonpayment:

  • Landlord demands payment.
  • Landlord applies for eviction, asks the judge to issue a possession order.
  • A notification is sent to the tenant by a sheriff, a special process server or a pinned notification.
  • The tenant has seven days to respond or a judge will order the eviction.
  • If the tenant submits a response, a trial appointment will be set
  • Judges often encourage mediation. But if there is a lawsuit and the tenant loses, the tenant has seven days to move out.
  • If the renter does not move out, the landlord will ask a marshal to set a “suspension date”.

More details

  • How long does it take to vacate a tenant? It was not long ago in Georgia compared to countries with stronger tenant protection. “Before COVID-19, 28 days would be quick, but not uncommon,” said Mara Block, senior attorney for the Atlanta Legal Aid Society in DeKalb County.
  • What are the effects of an eviction? Eviction affects a consumer’s creditworthiness, which often makes borrowing more expensive. Also, many landlords do not rent to someone who was previously evicted.
  • Are further negotiations possible after an eviction order? Yes. Tenants and landlords can make a new agreement that legally changes the eviction order. And when a tenant offers to pay and a landlord accepts the money, that’s legally a new agreement. Lawyers say many renters and landlords fail to realize that in some countries, once the landlord takes money, it can become an obstacle to eviction.

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