The rule, which will take effect May 3, is in support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium and can apply to attorneys who engage in eviction proceedings who may be considered debt collectors under the FDCPA.
A new interim final rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau clarifies accountability for illegal evictions under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
ACA International CEO Mark Neeb was part of a call with CFPB leaders Monday morning where the policy announcement.
The interim final rule is in support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s eviction moratorium, according to a CFPB news release. The CFPB’s rule requires “debt collectors” to provide written notice to tenants of their rights under the eviction moratorium and prohibits “debt collectors” from misrepresenting tenants’ eligibility for protection from eviction under the moratorium.
The interim final rule will take effect on May 3, 2021, which the CFPB believes will give “debt collectors” time to come into full compliance. There will be an opportunity to comment for 15 days after the interim final rule is published in the Federal Register.
Attorneys who engage in eviction proceedings on behalf of landlords or residential property owners to collect unpaid residential rent may be “debt collectors” as defined by the FDCPA.
The rule states that “debt collectors” who evict tenants who may have rights under the CDC moratorium without providing notice of the moratorium or who misrepresent tenants’ rights under the moratorium can be prosecuted by federal agencies and state attorneys general for violations of FDCPA and are also subject to private lawsuits by tenants, according to the news release.
ACA plans to seek clarification about whether the bureau understands the role of creditors versus debt collectors in this process.
“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 news release. “We encourage debt collectors to work with tenants and landlords to find solutions that work for everyone.”
The temporary eviction moratorium ordered by the CDC is in place through June 30, 2021. The CDC order generally prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent if the tenant submits a written declaration that they are unable to afford full rental payments and would likely become homeless or have to move into a shared living setting. This prohibition applies to an agent or attorney acting as a debt collector on behalf of a landlord or owner of the residential property, according to the CFPB.
New Tenant Protections
Under the FDCPA interim final rule, “debt collectors,” including attorneys, seeking to evict tenants for non-payment of rent must provide tenants who may have rights under the CDC order with clear and conspicuous written notice of those rights. The notice must be provided on the same date as the eviction notice, or, if no eviction notice is required by law, on the date that the eviction action is filed.
Notice must be provided in writing. Phone calls or electronic notice such as text messages or emails are not sufficient. The CFPB is providing debt collectors with sample language to satisfy the rule’s disclosure requirements.
Failure to provide the required notice to tenants is a violation of the FDCPA. The FDCPA provides a private right of action against debt collectors, and violators can be held liable for actual damages, statutory damages and attorney’s fees. Class actions may be brought under the FDCPA.
Some states and localities have adopted their own eviction moratoria. Debt collectors may also be required to provide notice of these moratoria. The CFPB’s rule does not preempt more protective state law.