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Bill Would Protect Tenants Facing Unhealthy Living Conditions (GA)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Bill Would Protect Tenants Facing Unhealthy Living Conditions

"Water leaks and sewage overflows, rampant mold and rat infestation are some residents’ descriptions of conditions and some environmental hazards that tenants can face.

In Georgia, renters have the right to complain about unlivable conditions, and landlords have a legal duty to make necessary repairs. But advocates for tenants say it can be difficult to get such remedial action taken. They say many renters fear retaliation – including possible eviction – for making a complaint.

The state Legislature is considering a bill that would protect tenants from retaliation by a landlord after they file a complaint about unhealthy conditions.

House Bill 346 is sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee. At a hearing earlier this month the legislation, Cooper cited the ‘‘terrible’’ conditions in certain Cobb apartments.

She pointed out that children’s asthma can be exacerbated by housing hazards.

“Mold is one of the leading causes of an asthma attack,’’ Cooper told a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. “Asthma is a leading reason why children miss school,” she added.

Cooper said the problem is negligent owners who fail to maintain decent conditions in their rental properties. She said tenants who face unhealthy conditions often don’t have the money to go to a lawyer, and  eventually, the landlord can move another family into the hazardous home.

Susan Reif, an attorney with Georgia Legal Services, told lawmakers, “We tell clients that you have to weigh the risk of calling code enforcement against the possibility of eviction.’’

Under House Bill 346, if a tenant were to complain about unsafe conditions, and suffer a rental increase or eviction as a consequence, a retaliatory eviction could be halted, and the landlord could face civil penalties..."

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