Your tenant and debt collection rights
As a renter, you have local, state and federal rights during the pandemic. These may help you stay in your home.
Find out about eviction protections
To help people stay in stable housing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order that means you may be protected from eviction. You need to take action now. If you already gave a signed Declaration to the person or company you rent from, you do not need to give them a new one.
Your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
When you owe money to your landlord or utility company and someone else is trying to collect the money, that person could be a debt collector. Maybe a lawyer or law firm is representing your landlord, or maybe a collection agency is trying to collect the back rent you owe. If so, the lawyer, law firm, or company may be a debt collector under federal law.
Federal law says that debt collectors can’t use unfair or deceptive practices to try and collect a debt. This means if a debt collector harasses you, makes false or misleading statements about the CDC Order, or says misleading things in order to collect rent, they are breaking federal law.
Starting on May 3, 2021, a debt collector who tries to evict you for not paying your rent must give you a notice about the CDC Order when they send you an eviction notice or file an eviction lawsuit, if the CDC Order might reasonably apply to you. They may also give you notice about any state or local protections that could protect you from eviction.
Here’s what you can do:
- Many renters today can temporarily avoid eviction for not paying your rent under federal, state, or local law. Learn the steps to get started today.
- Many landlords are represented by a lawyer in court. You may want to get legal help too, and you may qualify for free legal aid. Find a lawyer through your local bar association or legal aid office.
- Your landlord’s lawyer may be required to give you information about federal eviction protections to postpone eviction for not paying your rent (or for more than one reason, so long as one of the reasons is not paying your rent). They must do this on the same day that they give you an eviction notice or file an eviction against you. If they didn’t give you this notice, tell the lawyer who is representing you in the eviction. You can also submit a complaint or call (855) 411-2372 to report debt collectors who break federal law.
Report a bad landlord
Your rights as a tenant are usually spelled out in your rental agreement and state or local laws. Visit LegalFAQ.org to learn about tenant rights in your state.
Your landlord cannot:
- Force you out by changing your locks without a court order
- Demand fees, interest, or other charges that you did not agree to
- Refuse to make necessary repairs
- Fail to pay for utilities under their control or
- Endanger the health and safety of tenants
Stay in your home as a survivor of domestic violence
Federal law may protect you from being evicted, losing your housing subsidy, or having your application for housing denied because of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking committed against you. However, federal laws don't stop landlords from evicting abusers for committing domestic violence against you, even during the pandemic.
Report housing discrimination
- Sexually harass you
- Refuse to rent to you
- Evict you, or
- Change or set different rules for your rental agreement
because of your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (families with children), or disability.