Two federal agencies have issued letters warning large landlords, who collectively own more than two million housing units, of federal protections in place to keep tenants in their homes and stop the spread of COVID-19, according to a release.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Acting Director Dave Uejio and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter sent notification letters to the nation’s largest apartment landlords. A recent CFPB report found that renters are particularly endangered, with more than 8.8 million tenants behind on rent.
“With millions of families nationwide at risk of eviction, it’s vital that landlords and the debt collectors who work on their behalf understand and abide by their obligations,” Slaughter said. “We are continuing to monitor this area and will act as needed to protect renters.”
“Landlords should ensure that [Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)]-covered debt collectors working on their behalf, which may include attorneys, notify tenants of their rights under federal law. Nearly nine million households are at risk of eviction due to the economic effects of COVID-19, but no one should lose their home without understanding their rights,” Uejio said. “We will hold accountable debt collectors who move forward with illegal evictions.”
Under the FDCPA interim final rule, debt collectors, as defined by the FDCPA, seeking to evict certain tenants for non-payment of rent must provide those tenants with clear and conspicuous notice that the consumer may be eligible for temporary protection from eviction under the CDC Moratorium. The notice must be provided on the same date as the eviction notice, or, if no eviction notice is required by law, on the date that the eviction action is filed. Debt collectors must provide the notice in writing. Phone calls or electronic notice such as text messages or emails are not sufficient, according to the release.
Neither the CFPB nor the FTC has determined whether the letters’ recipients have violated the law.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended until June 30 a temporary moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent, and the CFPB has issued an interim final rule, which took effect May 3, establishing new notice requirements under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Reports of Multistate Landlords Forcing People from Homes
“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,” Slaughter and Uejio said in a statement.
“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.
“Staff at both agencies will be monitoring and investigating eviction practices, particularly by major multistate landlords, eviction-management services, and private-equity firms, to ensure that they are complying with the law.
“Evicting tenants in violation of the CDC, 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 and the Federal Trade Commission Act. We will not tolerate illegal practices that displace families and expose them —and by extension all of us—to grave health risks,” they said in the statement.
“Neither the FTC nor the CFPB has determined whether you or your company is violating the law. Even though we’re sending this notice, the FTC or CFPB may still take action based on law violations. We will continue monitoring eviction practices to evaluate whether further action is appropriate,” Slaughter and Uejio said in the letter to landlords.