Educating Tenants in Fulton County, Georgia, About Eviction Defense

Posted November 19, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Woman looks at a document.

A new resource, fund­ed in part by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, helps ten­ants under­stand the evic­tion process and their options with­in it. The Evic­tion Defense Man­u­al, Ful­ton Coun­ty Edi­tion is writ­ten specif­i­cal­ly for ten­ants in Ful­ton Coun­ty, Geor­gia, who do not live in gov­ern­ment-sub­si­dized hous­ing. In addi­tion to break­ing down impor­tant legal terms, land­lord require­ments and ten­ant rights, the doc­u­ment explores how indi­vid­u­als can mount an effec­tive defense after get­ting an evic­tion notice.

Ful­ton Coun­ty is home to Atlanta, where long­stand­ing dis­crim­i­na­to­ry poli­cies have lim­it­ed wealth and hous­ing options for African Amer­i­cans. Add to this: The county’s boom­ing real estate scene, which has left many low-income res­i­dents caught in an evic­tion crisis.

We hope this man­u­al serves ten­ants in their dis­putes with land­lords,” says Natal­lie Keis­er, a senior asso­ciate with Casey’s Atlanta Civic Site, which has made invest­ments to reduce evic­tions and pre­serve afford­able hous­ing in the city. Qual­i­ty hous­ing is essen­tial for fam­i­lies to thrive.” The man­u­al, released by the non­prof­it Hous­ing Jus­tice League, opens with basic advice for ten­ants, such as:

  • pay rent on time;
  • use writ­ten com­mu­ni­ca­tion and keep copies of paper­work, receipts, work orders and cor­re­spon­dences with land­lords; and
  • doc­u­ment all main­te­nance issues and relat­ed disputes.

Next, the pub­li­ca­tion reviews the county’s evic­tion process and poten­tial piv­ot points along the way. For instance: It notes that ten­ants who receive a dis­pos­ses­so­ry war­rant or evic­tion notice can stop the process — and avoid an evic­tion record that’s cap­tured in cred­it reports — by set­tling debts or lease dis­putes with their landlord.

Final­ly, the man­u­al reviews the ins and outs of appear­ing in court and where ten­ants can go for addi­tion­al legal sup­port. It also shares advice on:

  • Land­lords issu­ing a demand for pos­ses­sion.” This is a notice that ten­ants have vio­lat­ed their lease, and it must be issued before an evic­tion law­suit is filed.
  • Land­lords prop­er­ly serv­ing ten­ants. A mar­shal or process serv­er must serve an evic­tion notice to some­one at the house­hold over age 18 or they must tape a copy to the door and mail anoth­er notice the same day if no one is home. Land­lords can­not serve war­rants themselves.
  • Ten­ants prop­er­ly respond­ing to an evic­tion notice. In Geor­gia, ten­ants must file a writ­ten response with a prop­er legal defense that chal­lenges the landlord’s claims with­in sev­en days of receiv­ing an evic­tion notice.
  • Ten­ants com­ing to court pre­pared. This means arriv­ing with evi­dence — includ­ing pho­tographs, paper­work, let­ters and print­outs of emails and text mes­sages — and noti­fy­ing wit­ness­es that they must be avail­able to appear in court.

When res­i­dents are edu­cat­ed about their rights and the sys­tem, it’s more like­ly that they will defend them­selves against evic­tions suc­cess­ful­ly, buy time to find new hous­ing or avoid large debts,” says Ali­son John­son, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Hous­ing Jus­tice League. This man­u­al should pro­vide ten­ants with help­ful infor­ma­tion to pro­tect them­selves, and we hope it inspires oth­er com­mu­ni­ties to pro­duce sim­i­lar edu­ca­tion­al materials.”

Learn about efforts to reverse racial dis­par­i­ties in Atlanta

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