In a decision that could upend the residential rental market nationwide, a U.S. District Court judge ruled Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its powers when it stopped evictions last fall.
The U.S. Justice Department quickly announced it would appeal the ruling, and the judge agreed to temporarily leave the eviction moratorium in place while both sides file arguments.
The ruling did not address state or local ordinances, many of which have also temporarily stopped renters from being tossed out of their homes for nonpayment. Some of those orders already have expired.
The CDC halted evictions at the height of the pandemic, saying that putting people out of their homes when state and local authorities had issued stay-at-home orders to stop the spread of COVID-19 would be a public health hazard. But the court said a nationwide eviction moratorium was not under the health agency’s purview.
“The Public Health Service Act authorizes the Department to combat the spread of disease through a range of measures, but these measures plainly do not encompass the nationwide eviction moratorium set forth in the CDC order,” said the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich.
The CDC order was set to expire on June 30.
Landlords and their interest groups, including the Alabama Association of Realtors, which filed the suit, have long maintained that the CDC order went too far.
Greg Brown, the National Apartment Association’s senior vice president for government affairs, told Stateline late last year that the solution to the problem is more rental assistance for cash-strapped renters, not eviction moratoriums, which leave landlords without a way to make enough money to pay their mortgages or taxes.
There was some federal pandemic aid given to states to offset nonpayment of rents, but some of that money is caught in partisan squabbling between state legislatures and governors. Some renters also are facing utility shutoffs.