Evictions – particularly by major multistate landlords, eviction management services and private equity firms – will be targeted for investigation by two federal agencies charged with overseeing consumer financial protection and fair trade, the agencies said in a joint release Monday.
In the release, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Acting Director Dave Uejio and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Slaughter said the action was aimed at helping stop illegal evictions and protecting consumers facing economic hardship resulting from the coronavirus crisis.
“We will not tolerate illegal practices that displace families and expose them – and by extension all of us – to grave health risks,” the pair said in the joint release. “Evicting tenants in violation of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), state, or local moratoria, or evicting or threatening to evict them without apprising them of their legal rights under such moratoria, may violate prohibitions against deceptive and unfair practices, including under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Federal Trade Commission Act.”
In their release, Uejio and Slaughter cited a CFPB report released at the beginning of March which, they asserted, found that renters are particularly endangered, with more than 8.8 million tenants behind on rent. They said those tenants at risk of homelessness are disproportionately people of color, primarily Black and Hispanic families.
They noted that federal, state, and local governments have put in place protections against evictions to keep people in their homes and to stop the spread of COVID-19. “Research has shown that eviction moratoriums save lives,” they said. They added that the CDC extended the federal moratorium on evictions by three months.
“Unfortunately, there are reports that major multistate landlords are forcing people out of their homes despite the government prohibitions or before tenants are aware of their rights,” the agency leaders stated. “Depriving tenants of their rights is unacceptable. Many of the tenants at risk of eviction are older Americans and people of color, who already experience heightened risks from COVID-19.”