Law & the Courts

Supreme Court Decides Not to Lift National Eviction Moratorium

(Timothy Epple/Getty Images)

In a ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Court decided not to remove the national eviction moratorium prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants who failed to keep up with rent payments during the COVID economic downturn.

The court declined an emergency appeal by landlords and real-estate firms to allow evictions to resume after a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled in May to invalidate the moratorium.

The moratorium has helped many tenants struggling to pay monthly housing costs but has financially hurt landlords, who subsequently faced a drought in income because of it. It was initially imposed by the CDC as a public-health measure to minimize movement of people and therefore COVID transmission per an executive order signed on September 1, 2020, by then-President Donald Trump. The CDC said it believed mass evictions would motivate people to share housing with other people, creating more crowded spaces and hotbeds for COVID outbreaks.

Last week, the CDC extended the moratorium, which was supposed to expire Wednesday, for one more month through July, marking the third time the order has been extended. Now that vaccination rates are high and infection rates are low, it is questionable what purpose the moratorium still serves.

The high court was divided in its Tuesday decision with a 5–4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh breaking with the conservative bloc on the bench to maintain the moratorium. Conservative justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett ruled to remove the moratorium.

In their request, the moratorium’s opponents said landlords have been incurring $13 billion a month in unpaid rent losses and won’t ever recover all of that money. They said the logic behind the moratorium is inconsistent with the relaxation of COVID restrictions nationwide following CDC scientific guidance and higher vaccination rates.

About 4.2 million Americans say it is “very likely or somewhat likely” that they will receive an eviction or foreclosure notice in the next two months, according to Census Bureau data.

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