Atlanta City Council members seek harsher penalties for negligent landlords

New legislation calls on the Fulton County District Attorney to explore new ways to punish owners who leave housing in disrepair. (Alphonso Whitfield/WABE)

Some Atlanta City Council members want to pursue new criminal penalties against negligent landlords. The councilmembers say they’re fed up with poor living conditions plaguing housing throughout the city.

In a year-long investigation, WABE documented one tenant’s struggle for relief from the rats, mold and overflowing trash at one complex in south Atlanta. Now, residents at Forest Cove are in the process of moving out.

But as a recent series in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed, disrepair and violence are common in apartments across the city. The investigation chronicled how issues persist even as owners see large profits.

Councilmember Andre Boone, who represents part of southwest Atlanta, said the landlords don’t take the city seriously.

“Whenever you have a problem with an apartment, you have to chase the owner,” she said. “We are literally chasing the owners.”

Boone crafted a resolution asking Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to explore more criminal charges against them. The legislation had the overwhelming support of Boone’s colleagues at the council’s public safety committee yesterday.

Councilmember Marci Overstreet said the city’s $9 million effort to relocate Forest Cove residents underscored the need for broader solutions.

The resolution could go before the full council next week.