Atlanta house renovation halted in Collier Heights

Atlanta City Hall blames the real estate investor for the delays; the investor blames City…

Atlanta City Hall blames the real estate investor for the delays; the investor blames City Hall red tape; neighbors say they’re caught in the middle.

ATLANTA — Residents of a historic Atlanta neighborhood are caught in the middle of a stalemate between City Hall and a real estate investor.

Neighbors are stuck living next to an eyesore of a vacant, old house that they say is also potentially dangerous.

And so far they haven’t been able to do anything about it.

The weeds and grass are knee-high. The large, construction dumpster in the driveway is overflowing and smelly. The house is gutted from the inside out.

And it’s been that way for months.

“I mean, it’s annoying, it’s definitely annoying,” Karon Lewis said.

Lewis and other residents along Jones Road in the historic Collier Heights neighborhood in northwest Atlanta, who take pride in their homes and yards, say they have done everything they could to get someone to do something to clean up this eyesore — now home to rodents and insects.

Online real estate sites show that the house sold in April, as-is, after a family had owned it for nearly 20 years.

On May 9, according to Fulton County records, Expert Real Estate of Atlanta took ownership. Then the firm began extensive renovations, allegedly to flip it.

But City Hall says Expert Real Estate never got the necessary permits to do the work.

“So now they have a stop work order and we have to sit and look at this every day,” Lewis said.

The Stop Work Order prevents the investor from finishing the renovation, even though the investor says, through a spokesperson, that he did, in fact, apply for all the city permits, and it’s been City Hall red tape that has prevented him from getting the permits.

“Well it just seems like this is something that is completely unnecessary and very much avoidable,” Lenny Berman, who lives next door, said. 

He added: “It’s an eyesore, but it’s also dangerous because it is breeding mosquitoes and rodents and snakes. It could be beautiful…. Maybe they need to stop pointing fingers and talk to each other and get a happy medium, because if he (the owner) intends to do this, then let him. Just work with the city. City– work with him. And get this taken care of.”

As it is, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, during the first three months of this year, 30 percent of all homes on the market in the Collier Heights zip code were bought by investors, and that percentage is growing in that area and across metro Atlanta.

After 11Alive’s calls Tuesday to the real estate investor, the mayor’s office and the office of the city councilmember who represents Collier Heights, the investor said he received permission from the city to go onto the property and remove the dumpster, and mow the lawn, which he will do this week.

A hearing at City Hall that could begin to break the stalemate and re-start the renovations is scheduled for October 12. That hearing will take up accusations that the owner, who painted the natural red brick exterior before the Stop Work Order was issued, violated the neighborhood’s designation as a National Historic District by not getting permission first to change the exterior in that way.

Berman and his neighbors — frustrated and impatient for a settlement that will ultimately make the house ready for sale to new neighbors.

“It’s not fair to us” that they haven’t settled their Stop Work Order issues, Berman said, “Because we have made this our home.”