Attorney Trey Wilson - RL Wilson Law

11 December 2008

Sheriffs in Atlanta Overwhelmed by Evictions -- Is the San Antonio, Bexar County Sheriff Next? Evictions Deluge Not Unique to San Antonio

Flood of home evictions overwhelms sheriffs
Atlanta Business Chronicle - by Joe Rauch Staff Writer

On June 19, sheriff's deputies Mark LaBoy and Joe Buico stood inside the living room of a Gwinnett County house after evicting its former owner at gunpoint. Eight movers cleared the ranch-style home in Lilburn. The eviction was the deputies' second of the day. Thirteen more were waiting.

Metro Atlanta's record foreclosures are overwhelming some counties' sheriff's departments' ability to keep up with the resulting wave of evictions. "We do this two days a week from 9 a.m. to noon, then we go to our real jobs," said LaBoy, who, with Buico, is normally assigned to the domestic violence unit.

Through the first five months of 2008, Gwinnett County's evictions are 8 percent higher than the same period last year, in the first days of the mortgage crisis. So far this year, the county is averaging 685 evictions per month, up from 633 last year.

The traditional one- to two-week backlog of eviction notices has bloomed into a six-week wait for some banks and repossessors. "This started about a year ago, and it hasn't let up," said Maj. David Parr, head of the Gwinnett County Sheriff Department's civil division who oversees the eviction program. Parr said the department schedules evictions every day of the week in morning and afternoon shifts, and plans to do "as many as we can get to."

All of the department's deputies are used for some work on the eviction shift. The department assigns two deputies to each eviction, Parr said, "because we've been attacked before. It's understandably an emotional time for people. We've sent as many as four deputies if we're concerned the situation may get out of control."

The data shows how unpredictable the volume of evictions can be.
In February, the county served 177 more eviction orders than in the same month the year before. This May, the county's 681 evictions were a 7 percent drop from May 2007's total of 736. Other counties have reported similar activity.

The Cobb County Sheriff's Office has seen overall eviction levels rise, and home evictions begin to roughly equal apartment cases. Apartment evictions typically account for about 75 percent of all eviction orders in the county.
Bob Hodge, a real estate agent for foreclosed properties, said he has noted an increase in eviction work in his business, and expects to market roughly 300 foreclosed and eviction homes this year, primarily in urban neighborhoods throughout the city. "Depending on the county, you could get an eviction done as quickly as six or seven days after an order was issued," said Hodge, president of Circle Real Estate Services LLC. "Now it's at least two to three weeks in the best case."
Hodge said the demand has pushed some repossessors to evict during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas -- a move generally avoided because of the potential emotional impact on a family.

Jason Nelms, a field supervisor for Eviction Services Inc., said business has been "consistent and busy" since the housing market began to slow 18 months ago. Nelms' company is one of the largest eviction moving companies in Georgia.
Evictions force renters or homeowners from their properties by legal order, typically served by county sheriffs or marshals. But the process can vary slightly from county to county.

The lag time from foreclosure or late payment to actual eviction varies, like
Georgia's foreclosure process, which is not judicially monitored. "The bottom line is eviction is driven by an individual's inability to repay," said Russell James, a University of Georgia assistant professor who studies housing and eviction trends. "Lenders don't want to take back houses or evict, but it is used when they make a judgment that the person is unwilling or incapable of repayment."
Only a fraction of foreclosures ever become evictions. Homeowners typically leave before an eviction is required, moving when the home is sold at foreclosure. James estimates that roughly 0.25 percent to 1 percent of home foreclosures ever become an eviction, but the dramatic rise of foreclosures is creating a corresponding spike in evictions.

For the former homeowner evicted by LaBoy and Buico on June 19, the end came after negotiating with mortgage lenders and attorneys during a five-month foreclosure process.

Robyn H., who declined to give her last name, said she lost her home after being laid off by a local engineering firm. Even though she had a fixed-rate mortgage, she was unable to keep up with payments when new work didn't materialize. "I've got nothing left," she said.

Trey Wilson --Named By Scene in SA Magazine As One of San Antonio's Best Real Estate Litigation Attorneys -- September 2008 -- As voted on by peers