The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued an interim final rule Monday ramping up sanctions for violations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium. The rule clarifies that tenants can sue debt collectors who evict them in violation of the moratorium and provides for such debt collectors’ federal prosecution. The rule also requires debt collectors to notify residents of their rights under the CDC moratorium when serving an eviction notice.
CFPB’s order comes after repeated warnings from housing advocates that evictions were going forward despite the CDC moratorium due to a lack of consequences for non-complying landlords and those who helped them. Though CFPB lacks authority to sanction landlords directly, the rule takes advantage of the agency’s ability to punish debt collectors who violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which requires debt collectors to provide debtors notice of their right to dispute an unlawful rent collection. Attorneys and other agents who serve eviction notices are considered debt collectors under the law.
CFPB emphasized that the rule was issued to further CDC’s goal of protecting public health during the pandemic. “With COVID-19 killing hundreds of Americans every day, kicking families out into the street during this pandemic may literally be a death sentence,” said Acting CFPB Director Dave Uejio. “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.”