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April 19, 2021, 1:39 p.m. EDT

Debt collectors looking to evict renters must notify them of CDC eviction moratorium, regulator says

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Jacob Passy

Federal regulators are working to provide more protection to tenants who continue to face the threat of eviction amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued an interim final rule on Monday that aims to provide more backing for the nationwide eviction moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The consumer watchdog agency’s new rule targets debt collectors who work to evict tenants and goes into effect in early May.

Under the new rule, debt collectors who evict tenants for non-payment of rent are required to provide those renters with notice of what rights they may have under the CDC’s moratorium. These debt collectors, including attorneys, must provide the notice in writing, and the notice must come at the same time as the eviction notice or the eviction filing. Under the new rule, phone calls and emails would not be considered sufficient notice.

“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,” CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio said in the announcement. “We encourage debt collectors to work with tenants and landlords to find solutions that work for everyone.”

If a debt collector fails to inform a renter of their rights under the eviction moratorium, they would be considered to be acting in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. As such, debt collectors could face prosecution from federal agencies and state attorney general if they don’t abide by the rule, and they also could be sued by tenants privately.

Under the CDC’s eviction moratorium, landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent if those tenants declare that their inability to pay is related to the COVID-19 pandemic. To receive protections under the moratorium, tenants must proactively notify their landlords.

The CDC moratorium has been in place since September and was recently extended through June. Yet landlords have continued to evict thousands of renters across the country since then.

Consumer advocates argue that gaps in the eviction moratorium have left many Americans vulnerable to homelessness. A recent report criticized the CDC for not taking more proactive steps to spread awareness about the moratorium and the protections it offered.

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