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Marketwatch: Corporate landlords harassed tenants, filed evictions during pandemic, House investigation finds

Marketwatch joined other media outlets in covering the report published by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis’ investigation into the eviction actions of four corporate landlords

Marketwatch, July 29, 2022: Corporate landlords harassed tenants, filed evictions during pandemic, House investigation finds

Citing data collected by the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, Marketwatch detailed PESP’s findings that “thousands of eviction cases were still filed by corporate landlords throughout the ban on removals. Even so, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis said it uncovered after a yearlong investigation “three times as many eviction cases as previously reported.” Invitation Homes and Siegel did not keep complete data on eviction filings, the subcommittee said, meaning the number of actual cases filed could have been higher. 

The investigation found that the Siegel Group, Pretium Partners, Invitation Homes and Ventron Management collectively filed nearly 15,000 eviction cases from March 15, 2020, to July 29, 2021. 

The report also included an email from an executive for the Siegel Group, a Las Vegas-based real estate company, that allegedly told staff they could “get rid” of a past-due tenant without an eviction order last May by calling child protective services if too many people were in the home, misleadingly suggesting a federal eviction ban was no longer in effect, or having security knock on “her door at least twice a night.” If there was an animal in the apartment, “we can tell her that if we knock on her door and she is not there we will assume she has vacated and call animal control to come pick up her abandoned pet.”

“I want this person very uncomfortable sitting in our room for free,” the executive said.

Marketwatch noted that while “landlords sometimes argue eviction is a last resort they only take to maintain their own financial security,” “that didn’t appear to be the case with the real estate companies that the subcommittee investigated. While they were moving forward with eviction actions, all four companies ‘displayed evidence of financial stability’ according to a subcommittee statement. Siegel, for instance, “experienced almost no revenue decline even during the most disruptive early period of the pandemic,” but still allegedly prevented tenants “from understanding their protection from eviction” under a since-expired federal eviction moratorium that went into effect in September 2020.

“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,” Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat and the subcommittee chair, said in a statement announcing the report. “Rather than working with cost-burdened tenants, abiding by applicable eviction moratoriums, and accepting federal rental assistance, these companies — with properties across 28 states — expedited evictions above all else.”

The findings involving Siegel’s actions, which were among some of the most serious allegations in the report, were referred to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission for investigation, according to the subcommittee’s statement.

 

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