Apartment tenants dodge mass eviction after church and commissioner intervene

Denise White is one of several tenants told to move out of the Park Valley Apartments on Candler Road by Friday or face imminent eviction.

"You can't just kick people out like that. It's not fair. A lot of places aren't even renting in the pandemic," said White.

She told FOX5 health problems caused her to miss work for a month and fall behind on her rent. She said she received the first notice in April and a second letter on May 10, but couldn't believe the owners would evict residents in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I've applied other places, but what if I get denied? Am I supposed to just put my stuff in storage and find somewhere else to stay? They don't have the right to do this, but they know there's nothing we can do about it," said White.

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DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson says he learned about the May 10 letter on Tuesday night. He and Michael Bryant from nearby New Life Church showed up at the complex near Interstate 20 Wednesday morning to intervene.

“We told them you can't evict anybody right now, so they agreed to extend it for 30 days until June 15. But they can't put them out then either. But they are going to eliminate the past debts for the residents who leave by then and that’s $136,000 for 23 families. They've also assured us they won't report this to their credit companies either," said Johnson, who has represented South DeKalb County for nearly 20 years. "It's important to remember these are people who have jobs in the service industries that are cutting back employees or at least, cutting back hours. So, a lot of these people were behind already, then just got caught in the crosshairs of this COVID situation. That's why they can't just end up on the street," Johnson added.

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A manager, who identified herself by phone as Ms. Wright, told FOX 5's Portia Bruner all residents were notified in March that renovations would force the owners to clear the complex. She said Park Valley residents who had paid rent in full would get relocation assistance and those with balances would have to leave. Johnson said he was pleased the new owners agreed to make several concessions Wednesday morning after discussing options for assistance with Johnson and Bryant.

“We're working with the new ownership to provide livable rent, deposit assistance and New Life is going to provide the resources to help all of these families relocate to other apartments," said Bryant. "When we first hear about this, we were appalled. Residents on the street at a time like this isn't something we can accept, so I'm glad the commissioner and the owners were able to work something out for the good of the residents," Bryant added.