1,200 Properties Have Been Overrun by Squatters in Atlanta

By: Alex Trent | Published: Feb 17, 2024

An outbreak of squatting is currently taking place in Atlanta Georgia as authorities estimate that over 1,200 properties are being illegally occupied.

Residents report these squatters are causing a danger to the community and may be forced to take things into their own hands as the problems worsen. Local laws make it difficult for lawful residents of these properties to evict the residents.

Squatting Crisis

According to Fox 5 Atlanta, Squatters descended onto the city and started occupying vacant buildings, properties, and homes. Legitimate homeowners are shocked by the brazenness of these squatters who will break into homes and just start living there.

A house with its lights on seen at night.

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Atlanta resident Ronan McCabe told Fox 5 Atlanta “This is my home,” pointing to his house which he couldn’t enter. “And there’s somebody in there, an intruder in there, intruders, who I do not know.”


Nothing Police Can Do

McCabe’s realtor was taking down the “for sale” sign on the home when they noticed that strangers had begun living there, even going as far as changing the locks.

A group of police officers on the street.

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He talked to the police, trying to explain that he had no contract with these people. However, the police told him it was out of their hands and that he would need to take them to court to get his house back. “Gwinnett County police are saying there is nothing they can do,” he said. (via Fox 5 Atlanta)

Extortion of Residents

One of the men inside McCabe’s house, who identified himself as Ronan Cortez, told McCabe that he would agree to leave if he was paid to do so. “They want me to pay them to leave my home. That’s scandalous,” McCabe said. (via Fox 5 Atlanta)

A woman counting out bills in her hands.

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Georgia Representative Kim Schofield called the practice extortion. “They’re trying to tell him, I’ll leave but you gotta pay me to leave. Are you kidding me?” she said.

Schofield Blames Outdated Laws

Schofield placed the blame on the current situation on the way the laws in the area currently stand. “These are outdated laws. If you really look at it, that are protecting the wrong group,” said the Fulton County Democratic representative. “I mean, this makes no sense,” she said.

A statue of the blindfolded ‘Lady Justice.’

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“Why are we empowering scammers and squatters to milk the system,” she said. “Come on, Georgia. We gotta be better than this.” (via Fox 5 Atlanta)

Eviction is a Slow Process

According to Ultimate News Wire, evicting squatters from situations like what happened to McCabe is often a slow process. Squatters can drag out the legal process for months, which costs the homeowners large amounts of money in the courts.

A paper that says ‘Notice of Eviction.’

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Some homeowners just end up giving the squatters money to leave because it ends up costing them less in time and financial strain than if they properly fought for their rights in court.


1,200 Properties Have Been Taken Over

The National Rental Home Council (NRHC) trade group estimates that over 1,200 homes are currently being squatted in the state of Atlanta. Residents and investors are growing afraid of the squatters, seeing them as a threat to the neighborhoods they live in.

A photo that shows a series of similar-looking homes.

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This data shows that the metro Atlanta area has the highest number of squatters than any other metro area tracked by the group in the country.


People Are Scared

Local business owner Matt Urbanski told Bloomberg “I’d be terrified in Atlanta to lease out one of my properties.” He runs a cleaning business for companies in the city and has had to deal with removing the possessions of squatters from properties.

A woman holding her face in the dark.

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The squatter’s persistence in maintaining their illegal residence is serious. They have reportedly been seen brandishing weapons and threatening their neighbors.


A Squatter Shot a Local Employee

Urbanski told Bloomberg that during a house-cleaning service job for a client, one of his employees was shot while attempting to remove squatter belongings from the property. The house was owned by Starwood Capital Group, a big player in the rental industry.

A closeup view of a pistol

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The attempt to remove a man’s belongings from the Starwood Capital Group-owned house resulted in a scuffle that quickly escalated into a discharge of gunfire.


Squatters Bring Illegal Activities With Them

According to the New York Post, residents have seen squatters bringing criminal activity with them, including illegal drugs and even an illegal strip club.

A police officer walking through a glass door.

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In the McCabe squatting incident, one of the squatters, Ramon Fuertes III, was a convicted child sex trafficker. (via Fox 5 Atlanta) Eventually after three police visits and surveillance by the US Marshals, McCabe was able to regain control of his home and sell the house.


Courts are Backlogged

According to Bloomberg, landlords in the area are saying that evicting home intruders can take half a year or more. Much of the blame for the slow resolution is a court backlog of cases and how police departments are also overwhelmed.

A gavel that judges use in a courtroom.

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“If a landlord files an eviction lawsuit, getting a court hearing can take three months, and it may take another three months to get a sheriff’s deputy or county marshal to clear out a home”, said John Mangrum, a Georgia-based real estate lawyer. (via Bloomberg)


Consequences from the Housing Market

Bloomberg reported that Atlanta is in a precarious position because of the number of single-family rental homes in the area. After a price crash following the 2008 financial crisis, investors bought up lots of homes, and now own over 72,000 homes in the area.

An aerial view of houses on the same block.

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Today’s housing market is much different as housing prices have since shot through the roof, so much so that Atlanta’s mayor previously advocated for a ban on big investors buying up houses. (via Bloomberg)