The typical dynamic in eviction hearings at the Fulton County courthouse is this: most landlords have representation while most tenants do not.
But with the pandemic bringing what advocates fear will be a massive influx in evictions, a legal aid nonprofit is calling for help from pro bono attorneys to change that dynamic.
Cole Thaler, with Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, said his organization is hoping to get representation for as many of the cases pending in Fulton County court as possible.
“If anything is going to show people why it’s so important that tenants have competent and effective representation, it’s an eviction crisis like the one we’re about to have,” Thaler said.
He said attorneys can volunteer to negotiate with landlords remotely or eventually show up in court on tenants’ behalf.
Fulton County isn’t expected to resume in-person hearings until November. The magistrate court stopped hearing matters involving landlords and tenants back in March to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In the time since, landlords have filed more than 2,500 new eviction cases with the court.
No county in metro Atlanta requires or guarantees tenants representation with eviction issues. In 2017, New York City is believed to have become the first city in the U.S. to give tenants the right to an attorney.