The Biden administration is stepping up the pressure on the most the country's major residential landlords following reports that owners of apartment buildings soughthate to evict tens of thousands of tenants despite the federal eviction freeze implemented during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, officials from the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Board sent a letter to dozens of debt collectors and large homeowners who host collectively over two million people, including The Carlyle Group, Morgan Stanley, Eaton Vance, LaSalle Investment Management, Angelo Gordon & Co and AEW Capital Management.
In it, they urged landlords to comply with two eviction moratoria and other federal protections for tenants, or to deal with regulatory measures.
"As millions of families across the country face eviction, it is essential that homeowners and debt collectors who tworking on their behalf understand and meet their obligations ", Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, Interim FTC President, written in the letter . "We are continuing to monitor this area and will act as necessary to protect tenants.
The action was triggered by a report from a non-profit watchdog group at the end of April, showing that large multi-state landlords, their Debt collectors and their affiliates have filed 57,000 legal eviction petitions nationwide since a federal moratorium came into effect in September 2020.
The group, the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, found that deposits from private equity firms and other companies accounted for the majority of cases of 'eviction filed in many areas. In DeKalb County, Georgia, near Atlanta, large landowners have been responsible for more than 80% of eviction actions in the past six months, they reported.
The administration has yet to take legal action based on the report, "but will continue to monitor deportation practices for assess whether other measures are appropriate, "the two officials wrote in the letter.
The freeze, enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will expire on June 30, but some state governments are consider new extensions for avoid a possible wave of displacement after the end of the moratorium. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has implemented a similar freeze for tenants of federally subsidized housing.
The federal freeze aims to cover most evictions caused by a tenant. inability to pay, but does not cover cases where a tenant violates the terms of the lease , such as damaging the property or the inconvenience of other tenants - although landlords sometimes use these complaints as a pretext to evict tenants who cannot pay on time.
Congress has provided billions in emergency rental assistance to keep tenants from falling behind, and many landlords, even those who supported the original moratorium, have been pushing to put end of the freeze.
"With these funds now disbursed, vaccines being widely available and the economy reopening, it is becoming more and more clear that short-term emergency policies like the national moratorium on evictions should be allowed to expire, ”said a spokesperson for the National Multifamily Housing Council, a trade association of apartment owners .
Since President Biden took office, the CFPB has adopted a new rule requiring debt collectors, who are o ften linked to successful law firms by large corporations, to inform tenants in writing of their rights under the moratorium and prohibit them from "distorting tenants' eligibility for eviction protection".