Atlanta battles ‘rapidly growing’ squatting crisis impacting over 1,200 homes

News & Politics

Squatters in Atlanta, Georgia, have taken over more than 1,200 vacant rental homes, according to an estimate from the National Rental Home Council, Bloomberg recently reported. The trade group found that squatting appears to be much more prevalent in Atlanta than in other metro area cities in the United States.

Many are concerned that the squatting crisis in the city is completely out of control, with some homeowners offering the freeloaders money to leave their property. Landlords are being forced to wait six months or more to remove illegal tenants due to overwhelmed sheriff’s offices and backlogged court systems, according to Bloomberg. Local police currently have their hands tied, unable to help homeowners because it is considered a civil matter.

Simon Frost, the chief executive for Tiber Capital Group, which manages homes for a rental business, wrote a letter to local authorities urging them to help combat the ongoing illegal tenant crisis, the news outlet reported.

“Unlawful occupants often brandish weapons and threaten neighbors, including children,” Frost wrote. “This problem is rapidly growing. We are concerned about the impact that this is having on safety and livability of our local neighborhoods.”

In October, a home in a South Fulton neighborhood was converted into an illegal strip club. The illegal occupants took over the residence, held parties, and kept horses on the property. A SWAT team was eventually deployed to remove the freeloaders. During the raid, law enforcement recovered several stolen items, including two vehicles, a weapon, and credit cards.

Online rental listings make it easy for squatters to identify vacant homes. WSB-TV reported that some crooks are using the squatting crisis to turn a profit by advertising on social media that they can help freeloading tenants find homes to take over. An Instagram account that Meta has since removed featured a story post explaining how to illegally take up residence in someone’s property, the news outlet claimed.

“The company’s owners will come out, so will the police. The police will tell you there’s nothing they can do about it — squatters rights,” the story reportedly stated.

The social media account advertised a New Year’s special, including a one-time $1,400 payment for keys and a bogus lease agreement so squatters could “stack money and turn ya life around.”

Homeowner Michael Holmes, who is a victim of squatting, told WSB that the intruder problem in Atlanta has been “a nightmare.”

“It’s like I gave away $200,000, I feel,” he stated. “If I can’t bring this to some type of resolution, I’ll be in jeopardy of filing bankruptcy.”

“It makes you feel like, ‘Why do you play by the rules if everyone doesn’t have to?'” Holmes added.

State lawmakers recently introduced new legislation, House Bill 1017, which would empower local police officers to remove trespassers, WSB reported.

The Georgia Squatter Reform Act would “make it criminal trespassing so the police can come and take them out of the house,” state Republican Representative Devan Seabaugh stated.

“House Bill 1017 says to squatters, ‘No more freeloading, no more free rides,'” said state Republican Representative Matt Reeves. “No more fraud on the paperwork. If you falsify documents and you get caught, you’re going to serve jail time on that. That’s wrong.”

“These squatters are stealing the American dream,” he added.

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