An Oregon man said his property manager illegally searched an IRS system to see if his tenants received stimulus checks

·5 min read
IRS landlord

In screenshots posted to social media, a Oregon property manager appears to admit to using an IRS website to see if tenants received stimulus checks.

Portland Covid-19 General Strike/Facebook

  • An Oregon man said his property manager used the IRS "Get My Payment" website to track whether he had received his stimulus check and intended to pay his April rent.

  • The IRS says the tool used to track the stimulus aid payments is for "authorized use only" and warns legal action against those who use the website improperly.

  • Austin Goodrich told Business Insider he lost his job as a security guard due to the COVID-19 pandemic and had told his property manager that he could not pay his rent.

  • Goodrich is threatening to sue the landlord and property manager if they don't agree to a list of his terms by April 22.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

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A man in Forest Grove, Oregon said his property manager used an Internal Revenue System (IRS) system to determine whether he and other tenants had received their government stimulus checks.

The messages between Goodrich and who he described as his property manager went viral on Twitter when they were shared on by Joshua Browder, the CEO of DoNotPay, a company that offers a chatbot to virtually offer legal assistance through an app.

Goodrich told Business Insider he had not told his landlord or property manager about receiving his stimulus check, though his property manager on April 15 — the same day he received the government payout — sent him a text message that said he was aware Goodrich had received payment.

"You got your stimulus, just asking are you going to pay rent or part of rent with any. I am trying to close out the books for April," the property manager wrote to Goodrich, according to the text messages circulated on Twitter and Facebook.

To use the IRS "Get My Payment" website, which tracks the status of an individual's stimulus checks, a user must enter a social security number, date of birth, and address.

In another text message seen in the screenshot, the property manager said he used the IRS tool to check the payment status of any tenant who had called him in the past two days.

"So are you going to be making a payment towards rent? So I can close the books out for April," said another message from the purported property manager.

A warning that appears before users of the site can input their personal information reads — in large text — that the system is for "AUTHORIZED USE ONLY!" The IRS warning says "unauthorized use of this system is prohibited and subject to criminal and civil penalties."

Business Insider's call to the IRS about whether landlords could use the service to track the status of their tenants' checks was not immediately returned Monday afternoon.

Oregon, like most states and cities in the US, has placed a moratorium on evictions during the ongoing pandemic.

Despite anti-eviction policies and some heartwarming stories of landlords canceling rent for cash-strapped residents, there are plenty of remaining concerns among the record 10 million people who filed for unemployment in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that took hold of the US in March.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Goodrich blamed the IRS for creating a system that was not secure.

In a subsequent tweet, Browder said the Department of Justice had "reached out" and was "investigating" the situation.

Goodrich is among millions of cash-strapped tenants facing off with their landlords

Goodrich told Business Insider in an email he lost his job as a security guard and had told his property manager that he could not pay his rent.

"They attempted to make payment arrangement agreements that were unrealistic to any person of low-income," Goodrich told Insider. "I did not agree to any payment arrangements."

Goodrich said he had multiple job interviews lined up, but he could not start working for those companies until after restrictions imposed by the pandemic were lifted.

He said he spoke with another tenant in the right-unit apartment building who had also "expressed some issues" with the property manager but would not assist him in his lawsuit over fears the property owner would "retaliate" and "leave his family of four on the streets."

Goodrich has not publicly disclosed the name of his landlord or property manager but said he would release it publicly on April 23, the day after the deadline he and his lawyer provided to his landlord and property manager to comply with a list of demands.

The demands require that his landlord and his property manager waive his rent for the remainder of his lease through the end of June, that all past-due payments be waived, that they entirely return of his security deposit, and that they provide an "excellent rental reference," he told Business Insider.

"What the landlord did, no matter what they believed was owed to them was still a crime and there is no arguing a plain fact," Goodrich said of people who have supported his property manager's actions. "But as I see it, the laws and courts of this country are at my disposal to remedy this problem."

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