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Thursday, 17 June 2021

Giant landlords pursue evictions despite CDC ban

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Giant landlords pursue evictions despite CDC ban
Giant landlords pursue evictions despite CDC ban

Despite a CDC eviction moratorium, deep-pocketed corporate landlords have been particularly aggressive in trying to boot some of the millions of American tenants impoverished by the coronavirus pandemic.

This report produced by Yahaira Jacquez.

When pandemic lockdowns led to millions of layoffs, housing activists took to the streets calling for rent relief as a massive wave of evictions loomed.

And the movement help people keep their homes got a boost when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a moratorium on evictions.

But as the coronavirus pandemic moves into its second year, Reuters uncovered cases such as Marvia Robinson, where landlords have sought to evict tenants anyway.

Robinson, a 63-year-old Greyhound bus driver, was struggling to make ends meet after the coach line cut her hours, and she fell behind on rent on her Orlando home.

But an Orange County rent-relief program offered landlords $4,000 in back rent, and Robinson e-mailed the property owner, Invitation Homes, to see if it would take that to cover what she owed.

Her landlord said they wouldn’t.

Instead, it suggested she seek help from payday lenders, or try selling blood plasma, hair, and donor eggs.

In January, Invitation Homes sued to evict Robinson.

Two days later, Robinson filed a handwritten declaration with the county civil court attesting that she qualified for relief under the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national moratorium on evictions.

It didn't work.

In February, an Orange County judge approved Robinson’s eviction and by March she was out.

A spokesperson for Invitation Homes said it would not comment on individual renters, but said the company had the right to challenge the CDC moratorium when renters made no arrangements to repay rent due.

The fight over rent can pit tenants scrambling to make ends meet against mom-and-pop landlords heavily reliant on rental income.

But a Reuters review of hundreds of court filings, as well as interviews, show it’s the big, deep-pocketed corporate landlords with portfolios spanning multiple states, that have been the most aggressive in filing eviction cases.

Robinson now lives out of her car and stays with friends or, when she has the cash, in a hotel.

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