Workers struggling after assisted living facility abruptly closes, evicts elderly residents

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office is receiving a trunk full of documents following the sudden closure of Tranquil Gardens Assisted Living and Memory Care.

Former executive director Tiffany Echols met with Channel 2′s Chris Jose on Monday and showed him boxes of paperwork in her trunk.

“I’ve been riding around with this stuff in my trunk since (last) Tuesday night and I will be turning it over to the authorities today,” said Echols.

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A sheriff’s office spokesperson said investigators are still reviewing the case to determine if it’s a criminal or civil matter.

Seniors were given a verbal eviction last Tuesday. They had three days to move out due to foreclosure.

The owners, Brian and Janice Stewart, blamed the pandemic for their financial troubles, but documents obtained by Channel 2 Action News show they filed for bankruptcy in 2019.

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Jose reached out to attorneys who specialize in eviction laws for context and perspective.

Ayanna Jones-Lightsy with the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, told Jose the owners could face civil penalties. She said:

  • Under landlord tenant law in Georgia, the owner must provide a demand for possession prior to filing any eviction proceedings
  • In general, when a foreclosure occurs the subsequent owner takes the property subject to the tenants current leases
  • Under Georgia Law OCGA 31-7-12.2 assisted living facilities must provide a minimum of 60 days written notice to …all residents of any impending bankruptcy or property eviction that may force discharge or relocation of residents or otherwise adversely impact the provision of safe care and oversight AND...
  • Provide a minimum of 14 days notice to the department and all residents of any impending change of ownership that may force discharge or relocation of tenants at foreclosure
  • Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure is also federal law which is meant to provide additional protections for tenants when the property owner is facing foreclosure.

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The former employees told Jose they have not been paid. Some are going through the unemployment process, but they live paycheck to paycheck. They started a GoFundMe page to help with immediate expenses.

“Right now my biggest concern is my kids. I got to feed my kids. I got to get my kids ready for school in two weeks. I have bills that need to be paid,” said Echols. “Jail doesn’t have an age on it. You break the law. You go to jail. That’s how I feel.”