Corporate landlords used aggressive tactics to push out tenants Congress finds four companies appeared to have a strategy to get tenants to leave during the pandemic. Many faced eviction after missing only one payment, and while waiting for emergency rental aid.

Corporate landlords used aggressive tactics to push out more tenants than was known

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A congressional investigation finds four corporate landlords evicted far more people during the pandemic than they had previously reported. It describes some of their tactics as harassment. NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: The report finds the companies filed to evict nearly three times as many people as was known. Many had only missed one payment. Some were waiting on emergency rental aid. House Majority Whip James Clyburn says one company, The Siegal Group, used possibly unlawful deception.

JAMES CLYBURN: It looks as if they were using information and even misinformation in order to set people up for evictions.

LUDDEN: The report says Siegel falsely led tenants to think they were no longer protected by an eviction moratorium. In the case of one Texas tenant, the company also suggested having a security guard knock on her door repeatedly at night and swap out her air conditioner for one that didn't work. The idea was to force her to leave without a court order. Siegal, Pretium Partners and Invitation Homes say they abide by all laws and helped tens of thousands of tenants stay put. Ventron Management did not respond to a request for comment. Jim Baker heads the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, an advocacy group that also tracks evictions.

JIM BAKER: Too often, we tend to place the blame on the resident. But what we saw in the subcommittee showed was really a pattern of actions. These large companies were taking multiple steps to sort of force those folks out of their homes.

LUDDEN: Peter Hepburn of Princeton University's Eviction Lab doesn't think these are the only corporate landlords engaging in such practices.

PETER HEPBURN: These firms are buying up a lot of housing. And they're particularly buying up housing in places that have relatively weak tenant protections. And I don't think that that is coincidental.

LUDDEN: He wants more transparency about the influence of these private investors amid skyrocketing rents and a historic shortage of affordable housing. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Washington.

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