Imagine receiving a $1 billion interest-only loan and later lying to your creditor. That’s what a congressional subcommittee said happened between Fannie Mae and Invitation housesthe single-family rental property owner who in 2017 secured a $1 billion, 10-year, interest-only loan from the government-sponsored firm.
The select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis found that from March 2020 to July 2021, up to 29% of company eviction cases ultimately resulted in the tenant losing their accommodation – a rate over four times the rate it represented for Fannie Mae.
Fannie Mae officials questioned Invitation Homes about its eviction practices in March 2021, according to the report, following reports that Invitation Homes was disregarding federal guidelines to limit evictions.
By email, a representative for Invitation Homes told Fannie Mae that only 6% of the company’s eviction requests in the previous six months resulted in residents “losing their homes,” according to the report.
But the Congressional report found that internal company data from October 2020 through March 2021 paints a different picture. This data showed that approximately 27% of the tenants that the inviting homes requested to be evicted during this period lost their homes, either formally, through court-ordered eviction, or informally.
Recent to research by Ashley Gromis and Matthew Desmond of Princeton University found that informal evictions are five times more common than formal evictions. Informal evictions are cases where landlords entice or coerce tenants out of rental units without going to court. There are few data to track the prevalence of these strategies.
Invitation Homes also told the Congressional subcommittee in May 2022 that it “does not maintain centralized, detailed data on eviction proceedings,” and a company executive told Congressional staff that it couldn’t even give a rough estimate of how many tenants had moved out, because he didn’t keep track of that data for all of his eviction records.
A spokesperson for Fannie Mae said it was reviewing the report and evaluating its findings.
Kristi DesJarlais, spokeswoman for Invitation Homes, called the subcommittee’s report a “fault-finding mission.”
“We have always worked with our residents to keep them in their homes, and we will continue to do so,” DesJarlais said.
The report, which looked at four large single-family rental landlords, found they collectively filed three times as many eviction cases as previously reported, totaling nearly 15,000 eviction cases.
Findings specific to Invitation Homes reveal Fannie Mae’s powerlessness when it comes to influencing the relationship between a landlord and tenant, even when Fannie Mae has financed the property. In contrast, a mortgage guaranteed by Fannie Mae comes with a full suite of protections for borrowers.
In 2017, Fannie Mae facilitated a billion dollar loan to Invitation Homes, which allowed the company – at the time backed by the private equity giant Blackstone Inc. — reduce the cost of its debt on all of its single-family rental properties.
The agreement pushback generated of 25 affordable housing groups, mortgage and real estate trade associations who criticized the deal as going against Fannie Mae’s mission.
The next year, Federal Housing Finance Agency director Melvin Watt ended the foray of government-sponsored companies into large-scale investments in the single-family rental market.
“What we’ve learned from the pilots is that the largest market for single-family rental investors continues to operate successfully without the cash provided by businesses,” Watt said at the time.