Thursday, September 29, 2022
HomeBusinessLarge landlords aggressively moved against renters in the pandemic, a report says.

Large landlords aggressively moved against renters in the pandemic, a report says.

A House subcommittee that investigated eviction practices by large landlords during the pandemic issued a scathing report that said four firms had engaged in “abusive” tactics to attempt to push renters out of their homes despite a federal moratorium.

The report was released Thursday, after a yearlong investigation and a hearing by the committee that looked into the business practices of so-called corporate landlords that led to eviction filings against tens of thousands of renters during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The committee focused mainly on four firms, including Invitation Homes, a rental firm for single-family homes, and Siegel Group, a weekly rental firm. Its report said the four had accounted for the filing of nearly 15,000 eviction cases from March 2020 to July 2021. It’s unclear how many renters were forced out of their homes.

The Eviction Lab at Princeton University said that in the markets it tracked, all landlords had filed 495,216 eviction actions during the period the subcommittee examined.

“While the abusive eviction practices documented in this report would be condemnable under any circumstances, they are unconscionable during a once-in-a-century economic and public health crisis,” said Representative James E. Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat who headed the subcommittee, in a statement.

The report found that Invitation Homes had “misleadingly downplayed” the effect of its pandemic eviction practices to Fannie Mae, the government-backed mortgage finance firm that provided $1 billion in financing to Invitation Homes in 2017. Invitation Homes is one of the nation’s largest single-family rental firms, operating more than 83,000 properties.

Siegel Group, which operates under the name Siegel Suites, was singled out as “uniquely egregious.” The report said the firm, which operates about 12,000 apartments in eight states, had “engaged in deceptive and potentially unlawful practices to prevent tenants from understanding their protection from eviction” under the moratorium. The committee also found that Siegel had used harassment tactics to push tenants out without filing an eviction action.

Mr. Clyburn wrote federal agencies about Invitation Homes and Siegel Group, asking them to review the companies’ actions.

A representative for Invitation Homes said the committee had found nothing unlawful about the company’s actions.

“In a time when the focus should be on adding much-needed supply to the country’s housing market, it’s disappointing that the committee chose instead to pursue a faultfinding mission,” said Kristi DesJarlais, a spokeswoman.

A representative for Siegel did not immediately return requests for comment.

The committee also looked into the eviction practices of Pretium Partners, another large single-family rental home operator, and Ventron Management, which operates 8,000 apartments in 26 states. Pretium said in a statement that it had complied with the federal moratorium and that no resident covered by it “has ever been evicted from our homes for nonpayment of rent.”

Ventron could not immediately be reached for comment.

Eviction moratoriums were widely credited with keeping millions of people from losing their homes during the pandemic. But they often did not prevent landlords from initiating eviction actions during the pandemic, a practice that gave some landlords the ability to quickly move to force out tenants once the federal moratorium ended last fall.

The filings created another problem for renters because they often left a permanent mark on a court docket that could be used against them in the future. Sometimes referred to as the “Scarlet E,” the mere filing of an eviction action against a person can sometimes be used by landlords as a reason for refusing to rent to them, even if the action was dismissed.

Some states have sought to address that problem by sealing eviction actions filed during the pandemic.

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