Atlanta City Council member proposes ‘Tenant’s Bill of Rights’
By John Ruch
A “Tenant’s Bill of Rights” is being proposed by District 3 Atlanta City Councilmember Byron Amos in a resolution that floats such ideas as rent control and courts providing attorneys in eviction proceedings.
Amos filed the resolution on June 6. It notes that renters are a majority of the city’s population and says they need better protection from “evictions, displacement, high rents and exploitation of tenants” in a housing crisis. Such effects are disproportionate on tenants of color and single mothers, the resolution says.
The resolution, which would be non-binding, calls on the City to develop the “Bill of Rights” and for the Georgia General Assembly to repeal any laws providing such city-level protections — particularly including the ability to institute rent control. The resolution next heads to the Community Development/Human Resources Committee for discussion.
“I always look at councilmembers as being the tip of the spear,” said Amos in a phone interview about the need for the council to act as he hears that “that the problem is getting worse as we speak.”
Asked whether the resolution’s ideas came from him or housing advocacy groups, Amos said, “A little bit of both.” The Housing Justice League provided a white paper that is the basis for some suggestions, he said.
The resolution does not specify what would be in the “Bill of Rights.” But it does list some “reasonable due process protections,” which are as follows:
- “a right to counsel in eviction proceedings;
- a dedicated Office of the Tenant Advocate;
- information provided to tenants by property owners about their rights as tenants upon moving into their rental units;
- reasonable limits on ever-increasing rents to stabilize housing costs;
- protection from discrimination on the basis of previous evictions which may not have been justified;
- and tenants should receive reasonable notice and an opportunity to cure any lease violation so that the stain of an eviction can be avoided in the first place.”
While there’s no guarantee the City would do anything even if the resolution passed as-is, Amos had luck earlier this year with a similar call for Neighborhood Planning Unit system reforms, some of which are now underway.
Update: This story has been updated with comment from Amos.