Some landlords accused of ignoring eviction moratorium, rental assistance money

CHARLOTTE — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium is set to end this weekend, which could cause thousands of renters to lose their homes, but federal lawmakers say some large corporate landlords have been ignoring the moratorium anyway.

South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn chairs the House Select Subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis which sent three companies a letter demanding answers, including Front Yard Residential, which has a Charlotte address.

The letter says the federal government has taken “aggressive action to prevent” evictions, including providing more than $46 billion to help people pay rent in addition to the CDC’s eviction moratorium.

Despite these actions, the letter states “some large landlords have aggressively moved to evict tenants.”

[City of Charlotte Eviction Moratorium FAQ and Resources]

The letter says “reports and court records raise particular concern” about Front Yard Residential and its family of companies that have “not fully complied” with the CDC moratorium, saying they “refused to accept rental assistance funds” or took the money and “then moved to evict” renters anyway.

The letter states the group Private Equity Stakeholder Project looked at evictions in just six states and concluded the same family of companies has “moved to evict thousands of tenants over the course of the pandemic.”

Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke asked the Stakeholder Project if it studied evictions in the Carolinas, but it did not respond in time for this report.

Federal lawmakers also believe the same group of companies appears to be filing eviction papers at “dramatically higher rates” in majority African American counties than majority white ones.

The lawmakers are demanding the companies turn over records by next week. In addition, the House Subcommittee is planning to hold a hearing “assessing abuses by corporate landlords” on Tuesday.

Isaac Sturgill with Legal Aid said he’s seen a lot of landlords ignore the law.

“We [saw] instances of that almost every day across the state. In some situations, it was more subtle than others,” he said. “We even had some landlords that would tell the tenants straight up that they didn’t care what the CDC moratorium said, they were going to proceed with the eviction anyway. And unfortunately, some landlords were able to get away with that, especially if the tenant was unrepresented, did not have counsel.”

Pretium -- the parent company of Front Yard Residential -- sent Action 9 the following statement:

“Pretium appreciates the leadership of Chairman Clyburn of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.  We look forward to engaging with the Chairman and the Subcommittee on how best to ensure housing stability during the pandemic and beyond.

Pretium shares the goal of keeping our residents in their homes, which is why we have worked to secure upwards of $25 million of rental assistance on behalf of more than 3,000 residents since the onset of COVID-19.  We have also forgiven and provided relocation assistance amounting to an additional $25+ million and have offered and administered tens of thousands of payment plans.  To do this, we vastly expanded our outreach efforts by a factor of four and hired more than twenty additional employees dedicated to implementing assistance for residents.  At Pretium we do this for all residents.  We believe deeply in fairness and discrimination has no place in our business.

Our policy is, and always has been, to not evict any resident covered by a CDC declaration, and we have committed to honor CDC declarations beyond the stated expiration.  We remain fully focused on assisting our residents and setting an example as a responsible, ethical company.”

(WATCH: Estimated 250K NC renters still behind on payments as state’s eviction moratorium expires)

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