A federal judge has rejected the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) national moratorium on evictions, offering a setback to Americans hit hard financially by the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich in Washington, DC, said Wednesday that the “plain language” of a federal law called the Public Health Service Act, which governs the response to the spread of communicable diseases such as COVID-19, has blocked the CDC moratorium.
The National Association of Realtors welcomed the judge’s ruling, saying a better solution would be to help tenants pay rent, taxes and utility bills.
“With housing assistance assured, the economy strengthening and unemployment rates falling, there is no need to maintain a blanket eviction ban nationwide,” the group said.
As part of a $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed earlier this year, the U.S. Congress provided $ 30 billion in housing and rental assistance for people at risk of eviction or losing their homes.
Friedrich’s decision, which the US government could appeal, provides temporary relief to landlords struggling with delinquent tenants and vacations. The moratorium was due to expire on June 30.
The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Reuters news service.
At least 43 states and Washington, DC, have imposed their own temporary suspensions of residential or business evictions during the COVID-19 crisis, although the protections are far from uniform.
A separate eviction and foreclosure moratorium for federally funded housing from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development expires June 30.
The CDC’s moratorium was issued last September, under the administration of former President Donald Trump, and has been extended three times, the most recent in March under the administration of President Joe Biden.
It covered renters who expected to earn less than $ 99,000 per year, or $ 198,000 for joint filers, or who reported no income or received stimulus checks.
Tenants must swear that they are doing their best to pay part of the rent and that evictions would likely leave them homeless or force them to live in “shared” accommodation.
Homeowners and real estate trading groups who challenged the moratorium in court said the CDC lacked the power to enforce it and illegally took away its right to deal with delinquent tenants.
Friedrich, a person appointed by Trump, said there was “no doubt” that Congress intended to give the CDC the power to fight COVID-19 through a series of measures, such as quarantines, but not a moratorium.
“The court recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious public health crisis that has presented unprecedented challenges for public health officials and the nation as a whole,” Friedrich wrote.
“The pandemic has triggered tough political decisions that have had huge consequences in the real world. One such decision is the national moratorium on evictions. “
Other courts have been divided over the moratorium, with some also arguing that the CDC has overstepped its authority, although none have formally blocked its application.
One in five tenants fell behind on rent in January, according to the White House, while UDS agencies said between $ 4 million and 8.8 million adults are behind on their rent.
The National Association of Realtors told the Biden administration in January that 40 million Americans were behind on rent, with $ 70 billion in missed payments at the end of 2020.