Real estate groups seek SCOTUS intervention on extended federal eviction moratorium

Part of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic involved measures meant to keep people who couldn’t pay rent in their homes by imposing a moratorium on evictions.

According to USA Today, a coalition of real estate groups say the rule is unconstitutional and financially devastating, and they’re asking the United States Supreme Court to overturn the rule through the use of an emergency appeal.  

The moratorium was first passed as a temporary measure by U.S. Congress last spring but was later extended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September of 2020.

Landlords losing billions in rent

The moratorium was subsequently extended by the CDC again in March of this year, and the plaintiffs say that it is causing them to suffer serious financial consequences as a result.

A complaint filed by the Alabama Association of Realtors says that the policy has “shifted the pandemic’s financial burdens from the nation’s 30 to 40 million renters to its 10 to 11 million landlords — most of whom, like applicants, are individuals and small businesses — resulting in over $13 billion in unpaid rent per month.”

What’s more, they contend that the CDC is acting outside of its authority, stating that “Congress never gave the CDC the staggering amount of power it now claims.”

In a USA Today piece from early May, it was reported that Washington D.C. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich agreed with that assessment when he handed down a 20-page ruling on the matter.

“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 conceded. “The pandemic has triggered difficult policy decisions that have had enormous real-world consequences,” adding, “The nationwide eviction moratorium is one such decision.”

Judge overruled

Nevertheless, Friedrich concluded that the CDC’s mandate under the Public Health Service Act did not extend to issuing a national eviction moratorium.

Friedrich’s decision was later blocked by a three-judge appeals panel last Wednesday, with the panel citing the COVID-19 pandemic’s unprecedented nature.

The panel wrote that “no public health crisis even approaching the scale and gravity of this one has occurred since the Public Health Service Act was passed in 1944.”

USA Today noted that even if the federal version of the eviction moratorium were to be vacated through a SCOTUS ruling, similar eviction moratoriums are still active in “dozens of states.”

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