Thursday, October 16, 2014

It's True; Wall Street Makes for Terrible Landlords

On Wednesday October 15th at Noon, members Occupy Our Homes Atlanta will gathered to deliver a petition and a giant check to Invitation Homes to demand that the company employ fair rental practices in the management of their large number of Atlanta single-family homes.

For the last two years, private equity firms have been buying up foreclosed homes in various cities across the country and converting them to single family home rental properties with an eye towards securitizing the rent their tenants pay. In Atlanta, the largest investor of this kind has been The Blackstone Group, the world’s largest alternative asset private equity firm. The Blackstone Group owns companies like Sea World, The Weather Channel, and Hilton Group. Now they own thousands of houses in Metro Atlanta, and tens of thousands across the United States, through their subsidiary Invitation Homes.

Nefesh Chaya signed a two-year lease with Invitation Homes so that she and her service dogs could settle into the neighborhood. She is facing eviction today because she requested reasonable repairs to a home that had been vacant for a while. Invitation Homes promised that mold removal and repairs would be complete before move in day, but they weren't, and Nefesh had to push the company to follow though. In September, Invitation Homes decided they weren’t going to spend any more money on repairs. They added the cost of a kitchen plumbing fix to Nefesh’s online bill. Invitation Homes refused to accept her rent without the disputed repair cost when she traveled to their office and then they filed an eviction.

Invitation Homes acquired their Atlanta homes for pennies at foreclosure auctions, has driven up rent in the city, and are willing to threaten eviction to get more money out of Atlanta residents. Neighbors tell us that the last tenant in Nefesh’s home was pushed out this way too. Occupy Our Homes Atlanta is concerned that Invitation Homes’ predatory rental practices undermine stability in our neighborhoods and promise to transform a large number of Atlanta single-family homes into revolving doors.

As we gathered outside the building that Invitation Homes leases it was clear that the word was out on our visit as security had a rather large perimeter around the building and were actively looking for our group. When we were spotted we made it clear that our purpose was to deliver a ceremonial check, along with real cash, and a set of festive balloons to Invitation Homes on behalf of Nefesh. The check represented the amount owed minus disputed repair fees(in Georgia repair fees are legally allowed to be disputed and are seen as a separate matter not connected to lease/rent fee).

At first we were refused entry into the building and Invitation Homes refused to come down. Eventually Invitation Homes Allowed two people to come up to their office where they refused to accept Nefesh’ rent money, claiming that unless she paid for the repair and added legal fees, they would proceed with a forced eviction.


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