Confusion over federal eviction moratorium led to selective enforcement

September 17, 2020

The federal CARES Act, signed by President Donald Trump March 27, was supposed to protect Israel and people in up to 20 million other rental households from just that fate. It barred landlords whose properties got federal benefits from filing to evict tenants or charging them late fees and court fees for 120 days. Israel lives in a building with a mortgage backed by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, better known as Freddie Mac. The law should have covered her.

But a two-month investigation by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism found that while the federal and state moratoriums dramatically decreased eviction filings in April and May, cracks in the federal law appeared immediately.

Confusion about the moratorium’s language, which played out in conflicting guidance from federal agencies and the courts, led to selective enforcement. Landlords were expected to determine for themselves if their property was covered by the CARES Act. Renters had virtually no legal help to fight back. And eviction filings in some cities dropped more steeply in white neighborhoods than minority neighborhoods during the federal moratorium.

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