Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Post
The federal moratorium is set to end in just 3 days, yet lawmakers are just now being made aware of the unethical actions of corporate landlords. According to Representative James E Clyburn (D – SC), the chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, corporate landlords have filed tens of thousands of actions seeking the removal of tenants during the pandemic, despite eviction moratoria on the federal and state levels. Specifically, Representative Clyburn sent letters to 4 corporate landlords who he found to be “particularly aggressive in going after lower-income tenants and Black and Latino renters;” these included Invitation Homes, Pretium Partners, Ventron Management, and The Siegel Group – who, together, filed for over 5,000 evictions during the pandemic. Records and news reports prove that these companies filed to evict tenants who had already submitted CDC declarations to obtain moratorium protection and/or who had applied for or received offers of rental assistance funds to pay back rent.
In light of these unjustified eviction practices, Representative Clyburn held a hearing last month on the topic. The hearing reportedly addressed the “effective use of emergency rental assistance funds, best practices and the successes of the American Rescue Plan, and what further actions need to be taken to prevent a housing crisis and keep families in their homes.” Representative Clyburn also individually highlighted how evictions by corporate landlords have been widespread in minority communities. At the hearing, housing advocates shared their data while representatives for corporate landlords remained silent. Jim Baker, the executive director of an eviction-tracking nonprofit called Private Equity Stakeholder Project, stated that “corporate landlords had filed at least 75,000 evictions across the half-dozen large counties the group has tracked since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in September;” he additionally highlighted the trend that corporate landlords, rather than so-called mom-and-pop landlords, had accounted for the majority of eviction filings. The Eviction Lab, run by a team of researchers and students at Princeton University, highlighted the importance of the moratorium, stating that it is “credited with cutting the number of eviction actions filed by landlords roughly in half.” The issue is that State and local courts can decide on the details of said moratorium as they please; while some have ruled that landlords can file eviction actions for nonpayment of rent but are prohibited from removing such tenants, others have permitted evictions on the basis of violations of a housing complex’s rules and regulations.
The hearing resulted in mixed reactions across party lines. Democrats told the subcommittee that Congress should consider extending the moratorium, in order for emergency rental money to be disbursed, while Republicans called the moratorium an unconstitutional power grab that imposed financial hardships on landlords. The only tangible result was that the committee requested the corporate landlords respond to Representative Clyburn’s letter by August 3rd.
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