Judge Berryl Anderson, DeKalb County Magistrate Court
Judge Berryl Anderson, DeKalb County Magistrate Court (John Disney/ALM)

The DeKalb County Magistrate Court has launched a project aimed at getting derelict properties cleaned up or razed if the owners repeatedly fail to respond to code violation citations.

According to a release from office of Chief Magistrate Berryl Anderson Wednesday, the court’s Ordinance Division will convene the special hearings once a month to address “abandoned, dilapidated and burned-out properties” that have been cited multiple times without any corrective measures being taken.

Following adjudication, the owners may be required to repair or demolish the properties. If they fail to do so, the county is authorized to tear down the buildings and seek reimbursement from the owners.

“We have long been plagued in DeKalb County with problems created by these troublesome properties,” Anderson said in a statement.

“In the past, there was not much that could be done unless the properties’ owners could be found. This initiative allows the county to move forward with taking down these properties, regardless of whether the owners respond to court orders. We can protect the rights of homeowners while making sure the neglect of their property does not undermine the quality of life in DeKalb.”

The Ordinance Division was established in 2015 after the Magistrate Court’s jurisdiction was expanded to include criminal and civil ordinance and animal control violations. It is staffed by Supervising Judge Hollie Manheimer and Judges September Guy and Matthew McCord.

The release said the judges “are particularly sensitive to the rights of property owners” and will follow a procedural checklist to ensure those rights are safeguarded. The court will notify all interested parties in each case, including the owners, mortgage holders and renters.

The hearings will be held the third Thursday of each month at 2 p.m. at 3630 Camp Circle, Decatur, GA 30032, in the Camp Circle Courthouse Complex, Courtroom E.

The court’s first calendar of 10 cases was heard Aug. 24, the release said. In three cases, the owners were ordered to immediately repair or demolish their properties. Owners had already begun to address the violations in three other cases, including one in which the code enforcement officer recommended dismissing the action.