Eviction moratorium leaving small metro Atlanta landlords facing foreclosure

ATLANTA — A federal eviction moratorium that has allowed thousands of Georgia families to stay in their homes throughout the pandemic even if lost jobs or businesses left them unable to pay has been a critical lifeline. But it has at times come at the cost of other Georgians also living paycheck to paycheck.

Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Justin Gray talked with landlords who are facing foreclosure.

When we think of landlords we think of big companies or major businesses. But many are just mom and pop operators. More than a quarter are low income themselves. And they say this help for renters has caused them financial hardship.

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“So they put this moratorium on evictions. But where does that leave you?” Gray asked Paxton Baety.

“In trouble. Because I have to pay for somebody to live somewhere,” Baety said.

Baety started with one rental home near his DeKalb County house and then over the years added two more.

“I painted every house, I laid carpet down every house,” Baety said.

Now as he battles to recover from a stroke that has affected his speech and mobility, he’s also dealing with a loss of most of the rental income he relies on to pay his family’s bills.

“If I don’t pay my mortgage, I get put out,” Baety said.

Since the COVID-19 crisis began some of his tenants stopped paying entirely while others pay sporadically.

But the mortgages taxes and utilities are still due each month.

A tenant at one home not only stopped paying last July but changed the locks.

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“The mortgage companies don’t give us any leeway. So we have to continue paying, for somebody else to live,” Baety said.

Baety estimates he’s out about $25,000.

For more than a year now, after congress first passed the CARES Act and then a CDC order was put in place, renters have been protected from eviction during the COVID 19 crisis.

It’s been estimated that as many as 40-million Americans might have been at risk of losing homes without the eviction ban.

Kristen Broady researches how the economy impacts everyday Americans at the Hamilton Project.

Her team’s research found that small so-called mom and pop landlords have been hurt by the eviction moratorium.

“If they’re not getting that rent, how are they supposed to make up the rest of the money that they need to pay their bills and keep their own households going,” Broady said.

And Hamilton Project’s research found that 30-percent of landlords are low to moderate income households themselves.

“When the tenant gets behind on the rent, and there is no subsidy, the landlord may be in danger of the house going into foreclosure,” Broady said.

That’s why Baety is trying to sell this home. Because with the tenant paying nothing for nearly a year, he is in danger of foreclosure.

“She told me, I’m not moving, you can’t make me, you can’t put me out, what you going to do? And technically she’s right, I can’t make her move, I can’t put her out,” Baety said.

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Baety took his tenant to court virtually because of COVID-19.

After multiple hearings over several months, a judge did finally broker an agreement for the tenant to leave so the house could be sold.

But with the CDC recently extending the eviction moratorium through at least June of 2021, that won’t help with his other properties.

“And nobody cares about us. Because even if we get a paper that say you have to leave and they don’t, (there is) nothing we can do. And it’s not fair,” Baety said.

The massive COVID-19 relief bill signed into law by President Biden still does not provide direct aid to landlords. It does allocate more than $20 billion in emergency rental relief money for tenants. That money is supposed to go to pay back rent. So there is hope that will help some landlords collect the money they are due.