Housing advocates called out the Biden administration for failing to crack down on landlords defying the federal eviction ban, The Hill reports.
Biden extended an eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which carries fines of up $200,000 and a year in jail for landlords who defy the ban. But tenant right advocates say the Justice Department has yet to file a single charge despite landlords evicting tenants across the country.
“I think it would be helpful if they prosecuted landlords who are violating the law,” Isaac Sturgill, an attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina, told The Hill. “From my knowledge, DOJ hasn’t been enforcing the order. It does make it look more like a paper tiger.”
“It’s getting weaker as time goes on,” he added. “People are figuring out more and more ways around it, and landlords are getting more and more emboldened to ignore it.”
Advocates want DOJ to file charges:
Advocates say landlords have tried to find loopholes in the ban but Biden should take action to deter the trend.
Federal prosecutors in Texas and North Carolina have raised the issue with the DOJ but it’s unclear what guidance they were given.
“I think it’d be important to see DOJ bring suits against especially big actors who are repeatedly violating the moratorium,” Sarah Saadian, vice president of public policy at the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told The Hill. “If there is no enforcement, landlords can continue to violate the moratorium without any real consequences.”
“There aren’t real consequences for whatever shady behavior you might engage in in trying to evade the moratorium,” Shamus Roller, director of the National Housing Law Project, told the outlet. “The way it’s playing out, the government needs to defend the laws it’s created and the orders it’s signed to create uniformity in how this is working across the country.”
Judges in Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and other states have also handed down rulings that defied the ban.
Private equity firms and other corporate housing groups have filed more than 56,000 evictions since the moratorium was imposed, with nearly half coming this year.
“The data we found only scratches the surface of eviction filings that are happening,” said Jim Baker, the executive director of the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, told The Hill. "We know definitely some of the cases have moved forward to eviction. We know some cases have been dismissed, and many are ongoing."