Oregon Man Sues Property Firm for Allegedly Tracking His Coronavirus Stimulus Check Status Through IRS

An Oregon man has filed a lawsuit against a property business managed by his own grandmother, accusing the firm of tracking his personal coronavirus stimulus check.

Austin Goodrich, 22, filed legal action on Wednesday against two entities—property owner 2275 W Burnside LLC and property manager TLC Bookkeeping and Tax Prep Inc.—seeking a jury trial and accusing them of invasion of privacy and unauthorized inspection of the stimulus funds.

The man confirmed to The Oregonian newspaper that TLC Bookkeeping and Tax Prep Inc. is run by his grandmother, but stressed they do not have a personal family relationship.

Goodrich, who is a tenant at 2005 Main Street in Forest Grove, released images of a text conversation he allegedly had with his relative landlord on April 15 in which she claimed to have used his personal details to check the status of the federal money, before asking if it would be used to pay rent.

The renter, who lost his job as a security guard in March due to the COVID-19 outbreak, told local media the messages were sent hours after he received the funds from the government.

"How do you know I got my check?" Goodrich asked his landlord, who replied: "Because I had to check several people today and checked yours too." According to the text conversation, the owner said she used the IRS portal, alluding that she had entered his social security number (SSN).

"I did this for everyone," the landlord allegedly said, before asking if he would be using the money to pay any rent for the month. The government portal warns that it is for authorized use only, stating: "Unauthorized use of this system is prohibited and subject to criminal and civil penalties."

It was not immediately known how many Oregon tenants are managed by the landlord's firm.

Here is their text exchange. Completley outlandish. pic.twitter.com/cCaYR2RTZq

— Cascadian Resistance (@CasResistance) April 17, 2020

I have, at the advice of my attorney filed a lawsuit against the property manager and the landlord.

Take a look. pic.twitter.com/cA35Gq6Ts3

— Austin Goodrich (@CascadianRebel) April 22, 2020

Goodrich told the Portland Mercury he had followed legal guidance and informed the landlord of his employment status before April 1, in line with the state's COVID-19 eviction moratorium.

On Twitter, he explained in a statement he had moved to Oregon last year and initially accepted a lease agreement with a property manager and business partner of a relative. "Unfortunately, the business partner ended up leaving in October, leaving my relative in charge of the property management company. I do not have a personal relationship with this relative," he wrote.

The Portland Mercury reported state records list the current owner of TLC Bookkeeping and Tax Prep Inc. as Lois Ranstead. The lawsuit claims the landlord tried to "coercively collect" rent.

It reads: "On or around April 15, 2020, defendants intentionally invaded plaintiff's privacy by using the IRS website to track the status of plaintiff's coronavirus stimulus check without permission.

"Prior to tracking the status of plaintiff's coronavirus stimulus check, defendants received written notice from the IRS that unauthorized use its tracking system was prohibited and subject to civil penalties. Defendants' behavior as alleged in this complaint caused plaintiff actual damages including feeling overwhelmingly violated and vulnerable, and interference with normal life activities."

The landlord is not specifically named in the lawsuit, only the property business.

TLC Bookkeeping and Tax Prep Inc.'s owner told The Oregonian she is Goodrich's "grandmother, tax preparer and property manager" but declined to comment further, per legal advice.

In an earlier statement posted on his Twitter account, Goodrich wrote: "This is a problem that extends beyond myself—for every one landlord or debt collector that admits to this illegal intrusion of privacy, there might be 100 out there that don't. This breach of privacy was facilitated in part by the IRS's failure to provide Americans with a secure system to check the status of stimulus payments."

Stimulus checks
Economic stimulus checks are prepared for printing at the Philadelphia Financial Center May 8, 2008 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One hundred and thirty million households are eligible to receive a tax rebate check under the $168 billion economic stimulus plan. Jeff Fusco/Getty