Acting heads of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sent out joint notification letters to some of the country’s biggest apartment landlords (which own over 2 million units), reminding these entities of their obligation under the federal eviction moratorium, a press release from the FTC published on Tuesday states.
Amid concern over increased cases of COVID-19, at the end of March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended the federal eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021. The moratorium allows renters in some cases (if they meet a specified income cap, can prove they’ve sought out rental assistance, and other specifications) to be protected from eviction if they’re unable to make their rent as a result of the pandemic.
However, those tenants will still need to pay any back rent owed to their landlords eventually. President Biden’s American Rescue Plan does offer some back rent funding for renters, but may not cover all of those costs for every renter.
“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,” Acting FTC Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter said in a statement. “We are continuing to monitor this area and will act as needed to protect renters.”
The joint letter issued to landlords entreated them to ensure that they and their debt collectors were fully complying with the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The letter also reminded landlords of the CFPB’s recently issued final rule, which requires debt collectors to give tenants written notice of their rights under the CDC’s moratorium and also bans debt collectors from misrepresenting renters’ eligibility for protection under the moratorium.
“Landlords should ensure that [Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)]-covered debt collectors working on their behalf, which may include attorneys, notify tenants of their rights under federal law,” CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio said in a statement. “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 right. We will hold accountable debt collectors who move forward with illegal evictions.”
Although the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program was supposed to help landlords who are lacking rent from renters, the program has had its hiccups. Some landlords have declined the funds altogether, citing excessive red tape they need to go through to use them, while others have applied for the funds but had to wait for months to receive them due to local governments being ill-prepared to create an infrastructure for distributing the funds.