Atlanta is battling a squatting crisis as 1,200 homes have been overtaken and landlords have to clear the unwanted residents themselves or wait months for police.
The situation has become so dire that some homeowners offer to pay off squatters to get them out of their homes – rather than risk losing months of rent.
One squat in the Georgia city was even being run as illegal secret strip club and had to be cleared out by an entire FBI swat team.
‘The large corporations are having a hard time dealing with it. A small individual who would want to use that property to build their long-term wealth and secure their future, it could potentially destroy them.’
The National Rental Home Council trade group has now estimated that 1,200 residences across the city are being squatted – more than any other metro area.
Evicting squatters can take over six months with backlogs in the courts and overwhelmed police forces.
One of Urbanski’s employees was even shot while attempting to clear out a house after getting into a fight with the squatter.
CEO of the National Rental Home Council, David Howard told DailyMail.com: ‘Incidents of illegal trespassing in the Atlanta metro area are disproportionately higher than comparable markets across the country.
‘The sheer volume and consistency of practice in terms of how these incidents happen are clearly indicative of some kind of organized criminal effort.’
‘There are serious public safety issues at play here – who is in the home? What is happening in the property? What is the risk to others in the neighborhood? Also, there’s a real concern here about the availability of affordably-priced housing.
Every incident of illegal occupation means there’s one less home available for a family in need of quality, single-family rental housing.’
As well as individual homeowners, the squatting crisis is making business hard for some of the country’s largest single-family-rental businesses.
CEO of Tiber Capital Group Simon Frost, reportedly wrote to local authorities begging for help, he said: ‘Unlawful occupants often brandish weapons and threaten neighbors, including children.
‘This problem is rapidly growing. We are concerned about the impact that this is having on safety and livability of our local neighborhoods.’
The problem is being fueled by soaring housing costs in the city, with rent rising 34 percent from pre pandemic prices to $1,897 a month.
Helen Z. Willis, councilwoman for the city of South Fulton, told Bloomberg: ‘There is a lack of affordable housing, and homelessness has increased during the pandemic.’
It’s also gotten easier for squatters to find homes to move into.
Some people may not even know they are squatters as scam artists can set up fake listings for empty properties and fake lease agreements.
Once a squatter is in, it’s hard to get them out. It can take three months to get a court hearing for an eviction, and another three months to get a deputy or marshal to clear out the home.
Strip club squat
In October, an Atlanta home was taken over by squatters who ran an illegal strip club inside on weekends and kept horses on the property.
The FBI had to get involved and arrested four people who had taken up residence at 4951 Wewatta Street in South Fulton without permission.
The 4,000 square foot five bed home with three bathrooms was trashed by the squatters.
Photos from inside the home after the FBI cleared it out showed the halls eerily empty, save for a cartoonish green lizard painted on one wall.
Other walls were covered in dark scuff marks.
Neighbors said they were running a strip club on the weekend, noisy parties and car races in the street.
One neighbor said: ‘They would get live horses. One day they had live horses.’
Four young men – DeAnthony Maddox, Jeremy Wheat, Kelvin Hall, and Tarahsjay Forde – were arrested on the premises.
All four were booked into Fulton County Jail on multiple charges, including several counts of theft by receiving stolen property.
Deployed soldier’s home
Last year, a deployed Lt Colonel Dahlia Daure said she felt ‘violated’ when she learned a man was squatting in her home while she was away on active service.
Daure told local media that Vincent Simon – a man who has been convicted on guns, drugs, and theft charges – was living in her $500,000 home.
The Army officer had been away from her Ellenwood residence for duty in Chicago – and only found out he had moved in as the house was in the process of being sold.
‘I felt violated. Had I not been serving my country, I would have been in my home,’ Daure told WSB-TV.
‘I want to go shoot out the windows, turn off the water, cut wires, but I can’t. That’s a crime. Law-abiding citizens can’t do that,’ she said.
The massive 4,300 square-foot estate has five beds and five baths, Zillow states, and is valued around $495,000.
Before listing the home, Daure had been renting it out and had even put in an estimated $35,000 in renovations.
The squatter initially presented police with a lease that he said showed him having paid $19,000 to stay in the property for six months.
In that time, the convicted criminal installed cameras and put up ‘Beware of Dog’ signs in addition to covering the windows with cardboard.
Daure urged the police to investigate and they discovered the lease was fake.
Police discovered the number on the lease did not lead to a real person or listing agent and Simon was served with an intruder affidavit. He was arrested after cops discovered he had suspected ecstasy and a gun, which he is not allowed as a convicted felon.
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