Good deed gone bad: Squatter sues Atlanta property owner who allowed temporary free stays

An Atlanta property owner is frustrated after he says people have been living on his land without permission for years. 

David Morris, who now lives in California, says squatters have been living on his southeast Atlanta property since the pandemic, and it's been quite an ordeal getting them to leave.

However, according to his attorney, David Perrie, they were granted Writ of Possession on March 21.  

Morris says he now plans to install fencing to keep unwanted visitors out. Meanwhile, he says he was contacted by code enforcement to clean up the property.

"It's frustrating that I'm having to spend so much money. I spent $10,000 on cleaning up garbage from vagrants," Morris told FOX 5. 

His nine acre property is the site of his former nonprofit, Lakewood Environmental Arts Foundation (LEAF).

He said about 10 years ago, he started letting four people live on the property rent-free if they helped care for the land. However, during the pandemic, he closed the nonprofit and noticed even more people staying on his property. 

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"The people who were living on the land started having other people live on the land, their friends," said Morris. "I tried to file eviction, and the city of Atlanta said, ‘Sorry, we have a moratorium on evictions right now.’"

He says now, years later, he has about eight people living on his property, some of whom he does not know. He says at least one person filed a counter-claim against him for $190,000.

"That was dismissed, and that counter-claim, because they didn't show up in court. So, it will take, I am predicting, another 30 days before the marshals will call me to schedule a time for me to have five people here to move everything from there to the street," said Morris. "I did get writ of possession on Friday."

About a year ago, Atlanta police visited the area where activists against the construction of the planned Atlanta Public Safety Training Center said about two dozen of them were detained.

Morris said he was in California when someone called him to tell him what was going on.

"The entire medical staff of "Stop Cop City" camped on this land. There was about 30 campers and the police came in and pulled them out of their tents," said Morris, who says he has no political ties to the situation. "I'm neutral, yeah, I'm not on either side."

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A large police presence was located in the Lakewood area of southeast Atlanta Saturday morning. Atlanta Police confirmed they were out serving a warrant.

From: FOX 5 Atlanta

He tells FOX 5 he just wants everyone off of his land so he can clean it up to build affordable housing.

"We're going to build just a big fence here and a gate, and put no trespassing signs. I'm not going to build it until all of the tenants are out," said Morris. "You know, start getting this place cleaned up."

FOX 5 reached out to the city for comment. We're still waiting to hear back.