Updated August 3, 2022 - 11:15 am
Clark County will investigate The Siegel Group’s treatment of tenants during the pandemic after a federal probe found the landlord engaged in “uniquely egregious” practices to evict residents.
Last week, a U.S. House panel announced the Las Vegas-based real estate firm’s executives had employed aggressive tactics, including deception and harassment, to force tenants to leave. The scathing staff report followed a yearlong investigation of Siegel and three other corporate landlords.
Local officials have now pledged to “remedy any wrongs” committed, beginning with a review of rental assistance the county provided to Siegel, county spokesman Dan Kulin wrote in a statement.
The company operates thousands of units across its local portfolio of hotel-apartment hybrids, known as Siegel Suites and Siegel Select. It collected millions of dollars of federal rental assistance during the pandemic, records show.
“It is simply unconscionable that trusted organizations like Siegel Suites chose to use this historically turbulent time to not only take advantage of those most in need, but also to do so egregiously,” Kulin wrote.
The company did not provide a comment on the county’s statement Tuesday.
The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis’s 41-page investigative report concluded Siegel employees were given a list of harassment tactics to use against tenants, according to documents released Thursday. Employees were also directed to “bluff” renters into falsely believing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium was no longer in effect, the report stated.
The findings will likely draw litigation across the eight states where the company leases rooms, said Ben Edwards, an associate professor at UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law.
“It paints a giant target on their back for private attorneys and for state attorneys general,” he said. “If they’re looking for a win they can talk about and explain to people, this is probably one.”
Following last week’s release of the report, a Siegel attorney wrote the company “has at all times been committed to abiding by the letter and the spirit of the law applicable to our operations.”
GOP members criticize report
Republicans took aim at the investigation Tuesday in a letter posted to Twitter, claiming the report was issued without their input.
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., wrote the document improperly included “highly confidential and competitively sensitive information” about the landlords. Scalise is the ranking member of the subcommittee.
“The report found the business practices in question were entirely lawful in most cases, which further calls into question the decision to publicize such sensitive information,” the letter states.
Kulin did not immediately provide how much total federal rental assistance the company had received through Clark County. However, a Review-Journal investigation published in June 2021 found that Siegel Suites collected over $2 million, one of the largest amounts received by any landlord in the program’s first round of allocations.
Congressional investigators determined the company received at least $5.5 million in federal relief during the pandemic, including more than $2 million in forgiven Paycheck Protection Program loans, according to the report.
Kulin wrote the county plans to cooperate with any state or federal investigations into The Siegel Group.
The panel referred its findings to two federal watchdog agencies — the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — for further investigation into whether the company’s actions would be considered deceptive and unfair business practices.
Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford’s office announced last week it would review the findings for possible violations of state laws and directives on pandemic evictions.
Edwards said the state, like federal officials, will likely examine whether Siegel’s portrayal of the CDC moratorium violated laws against deceptive and unfair business practices.
“The conduct that’s described (in the House panel staff report) is not good-faith business conduct,” he said.
Texas authorities may also launch a criminal investigation into one company executive’s email.
In May 2021, Siegel senior vice president of operations Mike Tisdale suggested ways to “get rid” of a San Antonio tenant. That included calling child protective services “to come out” if there were too many people in her room, Tisdale wrote in the email, which was published by investigators.
Texas state officials have confirmed they are investigating whether the company’s employees made any false reports of child abuse or neglect, a crime under state law.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, also announced on Twitter over the weekend that he had passed the finding along to law enforcement officials in Bexar County.
“We won’t tolerate this abuse in San Antonio,” the congressman wrote.