Accuracy when landlords report rental information and eviction information, and accurate reporting by debt collectors and others is going to come under increasing scrutiny from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as the eviction moratorium comes to an end.
The agency is warning in a bulletin to landlords and others of their obligations to accurately report rental information and eviction information.
“As the federal eviction moratorium and other pandemic rental protections come to an end, the CFPB wants to protect families from being denied housing on the basis of inaccurate information,” the agency said in a release. “Inaccurate rental and eviction information on a tenant-screening report or a credit report can unfairly block a family from safe and affordable housing.”
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warns landlords
The CFPB said it plans to look carefully at whether landlords, property-management companies and debt collectors are furnishing accurate information to credit-reporting agencies (CRAs) and complying with their dispute-handling obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The CFPB plans to pay particular attention to whether data furnishers are reporting arrearages that include:
- Amounts already paid on behalf of a tenant through a government grant or relief program; and
- Fees or penalties prohibited by CARES Act section 4024(b) or other laws.
The bulletin also puts CRAs on notice that the CFPB will be looking at whether companies are:
- Following appropriate procedures to include only accurate rental information in individuals’ consumer reports;
- Reporting rental information that belongs to the consumer who is the subject of the report;
- Reporting accurate and complete eviction information, including having reasonable procedures to include the disposition of the eviction, prevent the inclusion of multiple entries for the same eviction action, and prevent the inclusion of eviction records that have been expunged or sealed; and
- Properly investigating when consumers report inaccuracies.
“Errors in your tenant-screening report shouldn’t hold you back from having a place to call home,” said CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio in the release. “For families already struggling to make ends meet, an inaccurate report can be the difference between homelessness or settling into a safe and affordable home.
“Landlords and consumer-reporting agencies have clear obligations under federal law, regarding the accuracy of information reported about tenants, and to conduct timely investigations when consumers dispute information. They need to get this right. The CFPB will closely monitor their compliance, and we will use all the tools at our disposal, including enforcement, to protect consumers during this critical time.”
In the event the CFPB identifies CRAs or other data furnishers not meeting their obligations under the FCRA, the CFPB will take appropriate action to address violations and seek all appropriate corrective measures, including remediation of harm to consumers.
You can find the compliance bulletin on the Compliance Resources section of the CFPB’s website.
As of May 2021, an estimated 6.7 million renter householders were behind on their rental payments, according to the CFPB. Consumers contacting the CFPB reported financial distress caused by the pandemic. Many of these consumers reported that they were current on rental payments before the pandemic, only to fall behind after losing their jobs due to the pandemic.
The agency said consumers reported multiple issues with debt-collection practices related to eviction, such as receiving notices for outstanding account balances – in some cases for amounts higher than their rent payments – for apartments they had been evicted from earlier in the pandemic. Other consumers reported receiving collection notices for charges they viewed as questionable, such as fees for damaged property or outstanding utility balances.
Also the agency said some consumers have reported receiving debt-collection notices following an eviction for outstanding account balances for apartments they had been evicted from earlier in the pandemic. Other consumers reported concerns that their eviction would have detrimental effects on their ability to secure future housing.