Big Win: Bad Landlord Loses in Three Courts

In 2013, Susan and her boyfriend, Juan, rented a home in South Fulton. A few months later, Susan was hospitalized, and Juan stayed with friends nearby so he could visit her frequently. When Susan was released, she and Juan returned to the home, only to discover that their landlord had turned off the water, changed the locks, and pawed through their belongings. The landlord claimed that they were a few days late on rent and that he assumed the apartment was abandoned. When Susan and Juan assured him that they had not abandoned it, he told them that it was his property and he could do what he wants. Only then did the landlord bother to file a dispossessory.

Mark VanderBroek of Nelson Mullins stepped in as pro bono counsel. In the answer to the dispossessory, Susan and Juan raised counterclaims of wrongful eviction, conversion, and breach of the lease, and demanded attorneys’ fees. The Magistrate Court ruled for Susan and Juan, awarding them over $30,000. The landlord appealed to Superior Court and lost again – this time the damages award spiked to $43,000! Not finished losing, the landlord appealed the award of attorneys’ fees to the Georgia Court of Appeals. On May 1, the Court of Appeals upheld the award of fees, ruling that it was authorized by the plain terms of the lease. Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation congratulates these clients and thanks Mark for his outstanding work!