Sandy Springs mayor urges landlords to nix late fees during pandemicThe Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, near City Hall (Credit: Kelly Jordan)
By Sean Keenan
The mayor of Sandy Springs has joined the chorus of metro Atlanta leaders calling for help in the fight against a wave of impending evictions that’s sure to send a shockwave through communities near and far.
In response to the economic fallout prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Rusty Paul has urged “rental management companies” — landlords — to nix late fees for renters and consider other options to help reduce the incoming onslaught of evictions.
“We are seeing record numbers of individuals and families in need of financial assistance to keep the lights on and food on the table,” Paul said in a statement. “We have neighbors in need. Today, I am asking that our rental management companies consider options, working with tenants to build strategies that will keep residents in their homes, and provide a pathway for rent payment.”
In Fulton County alone, more than 2,600 eviction filings have cropped up since the beginning of the public health crisis, meaning the homeless population in metro Atlanta and beyond is expected to spike once courts begin processing the cases again.
Thankfully for many Fulton residents in jeopardy of being evicted, the county’s magistrate court earlier this week declared judges would not be hearing in-person landlord-tenant cases until at least November or “until in-person hearings become safe again.”
And in neighboring Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms recently extended a moratorium on residential evictions and eviction filings until the end of August.
Sandy Springs officials, however, are not considering any further action at the moment, Mayor Paul told SaportaReport in a statement.
“I realize many owners have mortgages to pay and need the rent money due,” he said. “I’m simply asking managers to work with their tenants by waiving late fees to help those who are currently able to catch up.”
Paul said that many of the agencies providing rental assistance during the pandemic don’t account for late fees, “so we’re asking managers, at minimum, to forgive those fees to help prevent the widespread evictions and the resulting homelessness due to the uncontrollable economic hardships their tenants face.”
Courtney English, the director of community development for nonprofit Star-C, told SaportaReport that, though waiving late fees is “an important first step,” more work is needed.
“Considering the amount of money that many renters owe throughout metro Atlanta, it may not be enough,” he said. ‘For example, the tenants we serve, on average, owe, between $1,000 and $2,000 after late fees have been waived, with some owing as much as $7,000 in delinquent rent. Government, landlords, and those of us in the not-for-profit sector must continue to partner if we are to help residents avoid eviction due to COVID-19.”
(Header image, via Kelly Jordan: The Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center)