Landlords hit the courts on ‘unlawful’ CDC eviction moratorium, ask federal court to intervene

A number of organizations representing landlords have asked a federal judge to stay a new 60-day eviction moratorium order issued Wednesday by the Biden administration after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the government lacked the authority.

The court filing comes on the heels of an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which critics say was issued in defiance of a June Supreme Court decision in which a majority of justices found that the agency did not have the constitutional authority to take such an action.

Later in the day, the Alabama Association of Realtors, along with other similar organizations, filed an emergency request arguing that the CDC’s order is “unlawful” and was only issued “for nakedly political reasons – to ease the political pressure, shift the blame to the courts for ending the moratorium, and use litigation delays to achieve a policy objective,” according to Reuters.

In addition, the realtor groups cited comments from President Joe Biden in which he said “the courts … made it clear that the existing moratorium was not constitutional; it wouldn’t stand.”

The realtor groups filed their emergency request for a stay with Judge Dabney Friedrich of the U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C. In a statement, the National Association of Realtors said about half of all housing providers “are mom-and-pop operators” and that if they did not have any rental income, “they cannot pay their own bills or maintain their properties.”

Friedrich, a Trump appointee, initially vacated the moratorium in May, ruling that the CDC exceeded its authority with the initial rent and eviction moratorium.

Earlier this week during a press conference, Biden said that most legal experts advised that a CDC eviction moratorium like would likely not pass constitutional muster. But he said a number of “key scholars” disagreed and, as such, he directed the agency to issue its order barring evictions while the issue gets sorted out in federal court. He added that “by the time it gets litigated, it will probably give some additional time” to renters who faced eviction, many by landlords who have been hard-pressed themselves to pay property mortgages, taxes, and other expenses throughout what had been a year-long eviction ban.

“Whether that option will pass constitutional measure with this administration, I can’t tell you. I don’t know,” Biden told media members.

“There are a few scholars who say it will, and others who say it’s not likely to. But, at a minimum, by the time it gets litigated, it will probably give some additional time while we’re getting that $45 billion out to people who are in fact behind in the rent and don’t have the money,” he said.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced the new moratorium, which she based on the emergence of the new delta variant of COVID-19 — an action that applies to 90 percent of the country.

“The emergence of the delta variant has led to a rapid acceleration of community transmission in the United States, putting more Americans at increased risk, especially if they are unvaccinated,” she said.

“This moratorium is the right thing to do to keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads. It is imperative that public health authorities act quickly to mitigate such an increase of evictions, which could increase the likelihood of new spikes in SARS-CoV-2 transmission,” she continued.

“Such mass evictions and the attendant public health consequences would be very difficult to reverse,” Walensky added.

Jon Dougherty

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