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Predatory real estate investors could be fined or jailed under new city rule

Atlanta City Hall. Credit: Kelly Jordan Atlanta City Hall. Credit: Kelly Jordan

By Sean Keenan

Predatory real estate investors in Atlanta have officially been put on notice: If they badger people about selling their homes, especially if those homeowners don’t want to, they could be fined or locked up. 

On Monday, the Atlanta City Council approved legislation that cracks down on what’s now called “commercial harassment,” making it a city-level offense punishable by fines of up to $1,000 or six months in jail.

The legislation was crafted in response to an investigative series by WABE and APM reports into the practice of “equity theft,” which occurs when investors coax property owners into selling their homes for less than their worth, essentially robbing them of the chance to build wealth from their houses.

The new rule bars investors from repeatedly pestering people about selling their places if those people have asked the solicitors to leave them alone.

An investor would be in violation of the law if they practice “predatory tactics,” which are defined in the legislation as “repeated and unsolicited attempts, within any 180-day period, to contact a person or entity, including via personal visits, or written material or similar means under circumstances where the person or entity has affirmatively requested the defendant or the defendant’s agent to refrain from such activity.”

Although the ordinance could help reduce the frequency with which investors try to swindle people out of their properties, it’s not the be-all, end-all for those predatory tactics, said Georgia State University urban studies professor Dan Immergluck. 

“I do not think it should be viewed as sufficient to end the equity theft practice, though it can help discourage it,” he said in an email to SaportaReport. “What is also needed is a law that requires investors to present to homeowners a current third-party valuation from a reputable valuation firm such as Zillow.”

That way, the logic goes, the seller would have an idea of if the wool is being pulled over their eyes. 

(Header image, via Kelly Jordan: Atlanta City Hall)

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4 Comments

  1. Barry Rydell November 9, 2020 10:35 am

    Heaven forbid a homeowner due their diligence when comes to researching their value to determine if an offer is in their best interest or at arms length. If there is badgering that should stop. Dbag thing to do.Report

    Reply
    1. Jay Aguirre November 10, 2020 11:44 pm

      There is badgering. It’s a fact. And heaven forbid some bootlicker like you not clutch pearls that the precious house thieves will be the slightest bit inconvenienced in the pursuit of ripping people off of their likely one available route to intergenerational wealth.Report

      Reply
  2. Josiah Rivera November 11, 2020 8:22 am

    Oh boy, more government regulations created by people who don’t understand the industry in the slightest. I want to see the government go after pawn shops for “stealing people’s property” and force valuations from eBay before any sale can be made… The houses we go after are beat up 99% of the time and WE DON’T WORK FOR FREE given we take on a massive amount of risk during rehabs. We also add inventory to the market place in price ranges most often fitting for first time home buyers. Please speak with actual investors who run businesses to learn how this works instead of blindly regulating the marketplace and discouraging the private sector from creating housing on its own. The positive impacts we leave on sellers are life changing and what makes the crap we deal with worth it.Report

    Reply
    1. Judy Walker November 13, 2020 10:29 am

      You are ripping people off just as predatory lending does, as a homeowner who is constantly harassed by investors this legislation is not strong enough. II should be against the law to contact anyone that does not have a For Sale sign in their yard.Report

      Reply

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