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CFPB Rule Declares Tenants Can Hold Debt Collectors Accountable For Illegal Evictions

Apr 20, 2021

The Consumer Protection Financial Bureau issued an interim rule that holds debt collectors accountable for evicting tenants who may be protected under the Center for Disease Control (CDC) eviction moratorium. Debt collectors must provide a written notice to inform tenants of their rights under the eviction moratorium, preventing debt collectors from misrepresenting their tenant’s eligibility for protection.

Debt collectors who evict eligible tenants are thereby violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and may be prosecuted by federal agencies or be subject to private lawsuit by tenants. The notice must be in writing, as phone calls or text messages are not sufficient. This prohibition generally applies to agents or an attorney acting as a debt collector on behalf of a landlord or owner of the residential property.

Thousands of renters are being evicted without being told of their rights under the CDC, and 9 million people are currently behind on their rental payment, a press release states. In a normal year, there are only 900,000 evictions nationwide. In 2020, over 27% of households with annual income under $25,000 were behind on their rent.

The CDC warns that if tenants are evicted, they may end up homeless or in crowded living spaces where they’re vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. CFPB research shows that COVID-19 infection rates were higher when the eviction moratorium was removed. Black and Hispanic households also face a disparate impact from tenant evictions as well, since they are twice as likely to be tenants or behind on rental payments.

There are certain states and localities that enforce their own eviction moratorium, so debt collectors may be responsible for providing notice of these moratoria. In addition, Congress has also created the  Emergency Rental Assistance Program to help tenants catch up on missed payments and avoid eviction.

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