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Fulton County court bumps in-person eviction proceedings until November

Sean Keenan
An Atlanta home from which people were removed. (Credit: Kelly Jordan)

By Sean Keenan

The Magistrate Court of Fulton County has granted peace of mind for residents on the cusp of eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the court issued yet another order pertaining to the statewide judicial emergency, which, among other things, mandates that the county’s courts won’t hold any in-person landlord-tenant hearings until at least November, WABE’s Stephannie Stokes first reported.

However, this doesn’t mean Fulton County’s more than 2,000 eviction filings can’t move forward. The court will still hold virtual hearings — assuming both landlord and tenant consent to doing so.

Both parties will be alerted about an upcoming hearing, but, according to the recent standing order, “If both parties do not fill out the form and agree to hold the hearing on Zoom, your case will not be heard until in-person hearings become safe again.”

Landlord-tenant hearings have been on hold since mid-March, when the Georgia Supreme Court enacted the statewide judicial emergency.

Since then, the backlog of eviction filings has been mounting, promising what the City of Atlanta’s chief housing officer, Terri Lee, called a “tsunami” of evictions and, in effect, displacement.

Fulton County’s move to provide a bit more breathing room for people threatened with eviction comes on the heels of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announcing she would extend a moratorium on local residential evictions and evictions filings until the end of August.

Experts have told SaportaReport, however, that these protections for residents merely delay the inevitable wave of displacement, which is expected to significantly increase the homeless population in metro Atlanta, in Georgia and beyond.

Additionally, a recent report by Apartment List shows that 32 percent of Americans did not make full on-time housing payments earlier this month. That number represents a slight uptick from June’s 30-percent delinquency rates.

Emily Benfer, the chair of the American Bar Association’s Task Force Committee on Eviction and co-creator of the COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard with the Eviction Lab at Princeton University told CNBC that upwards of 20 million Americans could be at risk of becoming homeless in the near future, due to the increasing number of evictions and foreclosures on the horizon.

(Header image, via Kelly Jordan: A front yard in Atlanta seems to show the effects of eviction or foreclosure.)

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