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Atlanta City Council member proposes ‘Tenant’s Bill of Rights’

Apartment buildings. (Photo via Unsplash.)

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.

District 3 Atlanta City Councilmember Byron Amos. (Photo by City of Atlanta.)

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.

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9 Comments

  1. Tim June 9, 2022 3:08 pm

    Who is going to pay for this? Landlords will have to pass on these extra costs to tenants. The only other option is to decrease the quality of rental properties, with less maintenance, less amenities, lower investments in new apartments, and increased application fees. Many landlords intown are smaller, and if it is not somewhat profitable, they will convert to AirBnB, single family, movie rentals, or sell for lot value resulting in tear downs and new single family properties. The city could easily encourage more affordable housing with incentives, like higher density in exchange for more affordable rents. Also, tax incentives are given out for buildings in very popular areas, with little to no affordable housing…end that practice! Our city council is very lay in much of this also. They are quick to increase costs and requirements that do little, but refuse to do real work that will encourage a range of housing prices. For example, a single family home pays about $26 per year for 911 fees (not counting cell phone fees of $1.50 a month) while an owner of a 4 unit property intown pays $326 per year – or 4 times the cost per 1 bedroom apartment as an entire single family home pays (thanks Kwanza Hall for passing that crappy bill). Another issue – “affordable units” in larger complexes have to be build with the same finishes etc as market priced units…who needs granite and stainless steel kitchens, dog bathing rooms etc? Loosen the requirements and more affordable units could be built. So many options, but rent control and more meaningless paperwork requirements is not the answer, just a lazy answer.Report

    Reply
  2. Keisha Traylor June 9, 2022 6:38 pm

    I have some ideas for this!Report

    Reply
  3. BB June 10, 2022 11:34 am

    I don’t think that it’s fair that landlord and property managers can make profit (steal money) from tenants. I think that people’s housing stability is directly related to mental and physical well-being. Right now, we are seeing A LOT of private equity firms buying up housing and property so that they can turn a profit (steal from tenants). Then, they use their newly acquired property to take out loans to buy more property, which is the source of this unmitigated inflation spike. Meanwhile, the tenants deal have to deal with management neglect and unresolved maintenance issues like mold. The people who are suffering the most from this backwards system are lower income people and black people. The state of Georgia has been successfully lobbied by landlords who benefit from this power imbalance. But tenants far outnumber the landlords and can often win major victories by organizing together. We need the Tenant Bill of Rights but more importantly, we need stable, connected communities, not additional cost restrictions and threat of displacement.Report

    Reply
    1. CommonSense June 13, 2022 7:48 am

      What makes you think anyone will rent out their properties WITHOUT a profit incentive? Without the ability to make a profit, there will be no houses to rent at all. No one is going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home and then just let other people use it for free.Report

      Reply
    2. Poulie June 13, 2022 11:06 am

      So sorry BB that you obviously attended a government school and have no idea how life in America (or anywhere for that matter) works. No Landlord has ever “steals” from Tenants. Here is what happens. A Landlord has a housing option for a Tenant who signs a Lease Agreement to live in this housing option for price and a number of months. This fee (Rent) is based on many things including the term agreed to as well as the Landlord expenses and the market (meaning what similar housing options in the area are renting for). If the Tenant does not pay the rent or is late paying the rent the Landlord charges late fees, etc. He never steals from the tenant. When the lease or rent term expires or ends (what the Tenant agreed to) the Landlord can do what they want. Charge more, charge less, etc. The Tenant can also do what they want. They can agree to the new rent and stay or move, They can also negotiate with that Landlord. If the Tenant is a good Tenant who pays rent on time and in full and does not trash the place the Landlord will likely want to renew that tenant at a decent rent.

      Hey BB, no one owes you are any of your “people” anything. No one owes you a place to sleep. No one owes you any money Why don’t you try working and stop relying on other peoples to live. Hence the problem here.Report

      Reply
  4. Atlanta Native June 13, 2022 10:05 am

    Byron Amos needs to signup for an Econ class or two over at GSU because he is about to make the housing problem much worse with this terrible idea.Report

    Reply
  5. Amos has to go June 13, 2022 1:12 pm

    Amos is clearly an idealoge using emotional arguments based on empty statistics. Atlanta, look no further than NYC, Chicago, LA, San Francisco and many other rent and eviction control cities for the predictable outcome. Rents in these cities are the highest in the country as housing availability continues to decline in numbers and quality. If bug government, small minded ideas worked then you would see it in existing rent control cities. These laws have the opposite effect on renters. Crazy is a slippery slope in urban environments. Take this non-binding proposal and vote it down. Vote out Amos asap to send a strong message that far left policies are not welcome.Report

    Reply

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