Business owners used ‘abusive tactics’ to evict tenants, House investigation finds

Large corporate landlords moved aggressively to evict tenants even as the federal eviction moratorium was in place, according to a new investigation by a U.S. House subcommittee. The landlord’s methods ranged from filing eviction cases against tenants who were only a month behind on their rent to trading in a working air conditioner for one that didn’t.

Four business owners – Dallas-based Invitation Homes, Pretium Partners of New York, Ventron Management of Boca Raton, Fla., and The Siegel Group of Las Vegas – filed nearly 15,000 evictions between March 15, 2020 and July 29 2021, plus more than three times the amount previously known through publicly available data, according to the report released Thursday into the year-long investigation into business eviction practices by the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Global Crisis. coronavirus.

The report indicates that The Siegel Group and Invitation Homes did not maintain complete data on eviction actions during this period, so their total number of eviction requests could be even higher.

“While countless Americans have done admirably to support their communities during the coronavirus crisis, the four proprietary companies the select subcommittee investigated were aggressively expelled to boost their profits,” Rep. James said. Clyburn, DS.C., subcommittee chair, in a statement. “While the abusive eviction practices documented in this report are condemnable in any circumstance, they are unconscionable during an economic and public health crisis that only occurs once in a century.”

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The report details what the subcommittee calls “abusive tactics” by landlords to evict tenants from their units during the pandemic. The report says all four companies had policies or practices that allowed eviction cases to be filed even when a tenant had applied for housing assistance and was waiting for state and local governments to put in place an infrastructure to disburse those. fund, the subcommittee said.

“While not illegal in most states, the decisions of these companies to bring such actions put tenants – very few of whom likely have legal representation – at risk of losing their homes as a result. waiting for help and burdening them with public eviction cases that could affect their ability to secure housing in the future,” the report said.

The subcommittee reported some of its findings on eviction-related practices that may have been illegal to federal and state agencies for further investigation. This includes a claim that Siegel Group executives tried to “bluff” tenants of their apartments by ordering property managers to distribute copies of a court order saying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had no the power to impose the moratorium on evictions while hiding the fact that the moratorium protections were still in effect while the case was being appealed.

Additionally, the report says that a Siegel Group executive sent a property manager and regional manager a list of suggested strategies to “get rid of” a delinquent tenant in San Antonio without getting an order. eviction, such as calling child protective services if the children were present, threatening to call animal control if she was not home, having security knock on her door twice during the night and replacing its air conditioning by a unit that did not work.

The report says Ventron and Pretium applied a low threshold for filing evictions. He revealed that 91% of Ventron evictions filed in the first 16 months of the pandemic involved tenants just a month behind on rent and that Pretium placed tenants in the eviction filing process if they lost. as little as $500 to $1,000 behind on rent.

Initiating eviction proceedings for nonpayment of rent was still permitted under the CDC’s moratorium. Pretium said in an emailed statement that it has always adhered to the moratorium and that “no resident covered by a valid CDC declaration has ever been evicted from our homes for non-payment of rent.” The company also said it has facilitated more than $110 million in rental assistance since the start of COVID-19.

The investigation found that Invitation Homes told representatives of Fannie Mae – which provided the company with $1 billion in financing in 2017 – in March 2021 that only 6% of its eviction requests over the previous six months had resulted in residents losing their homes, when company records show that 27% of tenants in that period lost their homes to a court-ordered eviction or moved out after a court-ordered eviction was filed. deportation file.

Ventron Management and The Siegel Group did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday morning.

A spokesperson for Invitation Homes said in a statement that the company “responded transparently and in good faith to multiple requests from the subcommittee over the past year.

“At a time when the focus should be on adding much-needed supply to the country’s housing market, it is disappointing that the committee has chosen to pursue a fault-finding mission instead.”

Invitation said it has helped more than 10,000 residents obtain more than $94 million in housing assistance payments.

The subcommittee launched its investigation on July 20, 2021, after public reports that some large landlord corporations failed to honor the CDC’s eviction moratorium or failed to cooperate with housing assistance programs. funded by Congress.

The report recommends that Congress put safeguards in place to protect tenants whose landlords do not accept offers of rental assistance and to support state and local infrastructure so that rental assistance can be provided more quickly in future emergency. It also says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission should investigate business practices that the committee says have been used by landlords such as The Siegel Group to entice renters out of their homes.

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