Vegas-based rental company faces pandemic eviction investigations | Company

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By KEN RITTERAssociated Press

LA VEGAS—A Las Vegas-based company that owns thousands of residential rental properties in several US states is under investigation over whether it improperly evicted tenants during the coronavirus pandemic, despite receiving millions federal dollars to keep people in their homes.

Investigations into the Siegel Group announced by the office of Nevada State Attorney General Aaron Ford and Clark County officials followed the findings of a congressional oversight committee that leaders of the company used “potentially illegal” tactics last year to evict tenants.

“Siegel’s pandemic eviction practices were particularly egregious,” the U.S. House Select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis said in its 41 page report. He said the documents showed “harassing tactics and potentially illegal foreclosures to evict tenants from their homes without filing formal eviction orders.”

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“Siegel received at least $5.5 million in federal assistance to offset pandemic costs and tenant rent arrears because he flouted tenant protections,” the report said.

Sean Thueson, executive vice president and general counsel for the Siegel Group, provided a statement from the company on Wednesday that said Siegel had not been “called or interviewed” for the House committee’s report.

“The Siegel Group has tried and will always try to run the most dignified rental housing business possible,” the statement said, adding that the company “is always committed to complying with the letter and the spirit of the law applicable to our operations.

The congressional panel reviewed evictions filed through July 2021 by subsidiaries of the Siegel Group and three other companies: Ventron Management, with apartments in Georgia, Florida and Alabama; Pretium Partners, parent company of Progress Residential and Front Yard Residential with rental homes in 24 states; and Invitation Homes, a publicly traded company with single-family rental homes in 11 states.

He said Siegel executives advised subordinates to “bluff” tenants out of their apartments by confusing them about the protections they enjoyed under a moratorium on evictions from federal crime and prevention centers. diseases, including releasing copies of a court order suggesting that the CDC’s eviction moratorium was no longer in effect. effect.

A national moratorium on evictions decreed in September 2020 by the CDC was lifted in August 2021 after a United States Supreme Court decision.

In another instance, the House panel said, a Siegel executive sent Texas employees a list of strategies to “‘get rid’ of a ‘delinquent’ tenant without obtaining an eviction order from court,” the congressional panel found.

The instructions included replacing the tenant’s air conditioning unit with one that didn’t work, having state child protection officials investigate the tenant, and security knocking on her door. “at least twice at night,” the report said.

Ford, the Nevada attorney general, called the report “shocking and disturbing.”

“Evicting people from their homes during one of the most disastrous public health crises in our country’s history is not only irresponsible, but offensive,” he said in a statement.

A moratorium on evictions from Nevada was first signed into law in March 2020 amid business closings due to the pandemic by Governor Steve Sisolak. The state moratorium has been extended several times and ended in May 2021. Ford and Sisolak are Democrats.

Ford said the state “has worked with tenants and landlords, including Siegel Suites, to ensure compliance with the guideline.”

County officials want to review rental assistance provided to Siegel Suites and Siegel Select apartment hotels in and around Las Vegas, and “right any wrongs,” county spokesman Dan Kulin said. told the Las Vegas Review-Journal In Monday.

Kulin did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Siegel Suites rents apartments starting at $169 per week in States also including Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. It markets “flex-stay” rentals because they do not require a long-term lease.

The congressional panel noted that the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “warned against deceptive and unfair business practices” during the pandemic, but said it “is not clear that the measures to enforcement were quick enough to deter such behavior from causing tenants to lose their homes. .”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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