New Regulation Helps Enforce Eviction Ban
A new regulation issued Monday is meant to make a federal moratorium on evictions more powerful by requiring that tenants be notified of their rights under the temporary protective order.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s new rule, which will take effect May 3, requires debt collectors—including the attorneys who often file the legal paperwork for landlords who are evicting—to give tenants who are being evicted written notice of the protections triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the temporary nationwide moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tenants suffering financial hardship can’t be physically evicted for nonpayment of rent through June 30 as long as they submit a declaration of their situation to their landlord.
The CFPB’s announcement addresses a weakness identified by the Government Accountability Office in a March report—that the government hasn’t done enough to promote awareness of the moratorium, which some have suggested should be automatic. While a CFPB spokeswoman said she doesn’t know how many people are being evicted despite the moratorium, officials at the agency estimate that thousands of people who are entitled to protection are being pushed out of their homes every week because they didn’t know to submit a declaration.
“With COVID-19 killing hundreds of Americans every day, kicking families out into the street during this pandemic may literally be a death sentence,” CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio said in a statement. “No one should be evicted from their home without understanding their rights, and we will hold accountable those debt collectors who move forward with illegal evictions.”
The CFPB last month warned that millions of renters and homeowners were at risk because of the economic hardships triggered by the pandemic.
The new rule requires the written notice to be given on the same date as the eviction notice or, in places where no notice is required, on the same date the eviction action is filed in court. The rule applies not to landlords themselves but to third parties and attorneys who carry out eviction proceedings, the CFPB said, because the scope of the agency’s authority over financial matters under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not cover landlords.
The moratorium doesn’t prohibit eviction proceedings, just the physical removal. Debt collectors or other agents who evict tenants without alerting them to their rights, or who misrepresent these rights, can be sued by regulators or by private individuals, the CFPB said.