Federal judge blocks CDC's nationwide moratorium on renter evictions

06 Mai, 2021, 03:17 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • A broad coalition of tenants and housing rights organizers rally at Stanley Mosk Courthouse to protest eviction orders issued against renters in September 2020 in Los Angeles

"None of the federal court decisions are binding on state court judges that actually hear eviction cases".

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich wrote in a 20-page opinion that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not have the authority to enact such a sweeping moratorium, which many tenants associations and anti-homeless advocates have credited with preventing a wave of evictions during the pandemic.

The Biden Justice Department has already indicated it will appeal the ruling.

The case ruled on by Judge Friedrich was brought by the Alabama and Georgia Association of Realtors, in addition to property management companies.

The 20-page order issued by U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich says that the protection goes too far, saying "it is the role of the political branches, and not the courts, to assess the merits of policy measures created to combat the spread of disease".

The eviction moratorium "protects many renters who can not make their monthly payments due to job loss or health care expenses", Brian M. Boynton, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Division, said in a statement announcing the department's decision to appeal the court ruling.

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The government argued that this language gave the CDC authority to determine what measures are necessary to prevent contagion.

Landlords and real estate groups that challenged the moratorium in court said the CDC lacked the power to impose it, and unlawfully took away their right to deal with delinquent tenants. Other federal district courts have split on the issue.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit could now issue a stay, which would keep the CDC's eviction protections in place, for now.

Eric Dunn, the director of litigation for the National Housing Law Project, said most of the rent relief programs only started in late March and early April. Other courts have been divided over its legality, with some also finding the CDC exceeded its authority. "So clearly Congress thinks that the CDC has this authority". Wednesday afternoon, the Department of Justice confirmed they will appeal Friedrich's ruling. The Biden administration had continued it until June 30. "Our focus is now on the implementation of emergency rental assistance to support tenants who continue to suffer from the effects of the pandemic as soon as possible". Almost 4 million people in the US said they faced eviction or foreclosure in the next two months, according to the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey.

A spokeswoman for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, which represents tenants in many local eviction cases, said in an email that lawyers there have seen "first-hand how the CDC moratorium has halted the eviction of so many tenants and allowed them the time to access available rental assistance".

While the order did not cover all renters - it applied to individuals who earn less than $99,000 and couples making less than $198,000 - it was a way for many, still struggling amid the pandemic-driven economic downturn, to avoid homelessness.



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