Law & the Courts

Federal Judge Tosses National Eviction Moratorium

Eviction notice for an apartment in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2009. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

A federal judge on Wednesday invalidated a national eviction moratorium after finding that the COVID-19 pandemic policy exceeded the authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Dabney Friedrich threw out the measure, which was enacted by Congress in March 2020 as part of the CARES Act and later extended by President Biden until June 30, 2021. Lawmakers cited the Public Health Service Act of 1944, which grants the federal government the authority to impose quarantines and other measures to handle health emergencies, as justification for the provision.

“The question for the court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the C.D.C. the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium?” Friedrich wrote in a 20-page decision. “It does not.”

The measure that initially passed Congress last spring was a 120-day moratorium on evictions from rental properties participating in federal assistance programs or underwritten by federal loans. Trump extended the moratorium in an executive order in August, saying that evictions threatened to spread the virus by forcing families to stay in shelters or to double up in overcrowded housing situations.

The Alabama Association of Realtors and a group of real estate agents in Georgia filed a lawsuit in November, claiming that the moratorium and similar policies passed by states, moved the burden for rent payments “from the tenants to landlords, and that landlords across the nation stand to lose billions collectively if the ban is extended into 2021.”

Though landlords, real estate agents and residential apartment trade associations also argued that the program was an unfair interference in the free market, Biden extended the moratorium shortly after taking office.

Yet groups advocating on behalf of renters have argued that the moratorium has prevented thousands of evictions of low-income tenants during a health emergency.

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