United States District Judge Dabney Friedrich recently threw out the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) nationwide moratorium on evictions, Reuters and other news outlets report. Friedrich did agree to put a temporary hold on the ruling while the government seeks to reverse the judge’s decision via appeal.
Friedrich said that although there was “no doubt” Congress intended to empower the CDC to fight COVID-19 through different measures like quarantines, a moratorium on residential evictions was not among them. Friedrich’s ruling was a setback for millions of Americans who have fallen behind on rent payments during the pandemic.
The moratorium covers renters who expected to earn less than $99,000 annually (or $198,000 for joint filers), reported no income or received stimulus checks. Renters covered by the eviction ban also had to promise they were doing their best to make partial payments and swear that an eviction would leave them homeless or force them into “shared” living quarters.
NAR Welcomes decision
The National Association of Realtors welcomed Friedrich’s decision. It said that programs that help tenants pay rent, taxes and utility bills were preferable to the moratorium.”With rental assistance secured, the economy strengthening and unemployment rates falling, there is no need to continue a blanket, nationwide eviction ban,” the group said.
The Justice Department looked for an emergency order to put the decision on hold. It argued, “evictions exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, which has already killed more than half a million Americans, and the harm to the public that would result from unchecked evictions cannot be undone.”
Friedrich agreed to temporarily put her ruling on hold and gave the landlord groups that challenged the moratorium until this week to file legal papers opposing the delay. The judge emphasized she had not ruled on the merits of the government’s request. The order gave the Justice Department four days to respond after the landlord groups’ file legal papers.
“(Evictions) exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 and the moratorium protects many renters who cannot make their monthly payments due to job loss or healthcare expenses,” Brian Boynton, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the department’s civil division, said in a statement.
However, Friedrich cited the “plain language” of a law called the Public Health Service Act, which governs the federal response to the spread of communicable diseases. She also acknowledged that the pandemic is “a serious public health crisis that has presented unprecedented challenges for public health officials and the nation.”
One in Five Renters are behind according the White House
The White House estimated that one in five renters were delinquent on their payments by January, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, the CDC noted that more than 4 million adults who were behind on rent feared eviction. Friedrich’s ruling benefits a lot of landlords who had been struggling to make their own payments due to their inability to collect rent. The CDC’s moratorium started in September 2020 and was scheduled to run until June 30.
During that time, there have been questions about the moratorium’s legality and if the CDC overstepped its authority by implementing it. Friedrich was the first judge to formally block the eviction ban. Landlords and real estate groups challenged it in court because they felt the CDC didn’t have the power to impose it. They also argued the moratorium unlawfully took away their right to deal with non-paying tenants.
Joe Dyton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.