A federal court has granted a request from the Alabama Association of Realtors and the Georgia Association of Realtors to temporarily suspend their lawsuit against the Trump administration over a nationwide eviction ban that Congress has extended until the end of January.
The trade groups will revisit the case at the beginning of February after the ban has expired or been extended.
“With the transition to a new administration just days away and the eviction moratorium set to expire on January 31, we acknowledge that policy changes could be forthcoming on this and many other issues,” Georgia Realtors’ 2021 President Dorrie Love told Inman in an emailed statement.
“With this in mind, Georgia Realtors filed for a temporary stay to determine how to proceed based on the actions of the Biden Administration in the coming weeks. Our goal is to navigate this matter in a prudent and mindful manner.”
The Trump administration’s order, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), initially banned evictions through Dec. 31 for renters making no more than $99,000 this year, or up to $198,000 for couples. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) would enforce hefty penalties against landlords who violated the order.
The Alabama and Georgia Realtor associations, which have more than 17,000 members and more than 44,000 members, respectively, filed suit on Nov. 20 against the DOJ, the CDC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar II, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr, CDC Director Robert R. Redfield and CDC Acting Chief of Staff Nina B. Witkofsky.
The plaintiffs argued that the moratorium shifts the pandemic’s financial burdens from 30 million to 40 million renters to 10 million to 11 million landlords and is therefore “unconstitutional” because it violates the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the taking of private property without just compensation, and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which requires “at minimum, fair notice and an opportunity to be heard” when a government action deprives an individual of a protected property interest.
The eight-count complaint alleged the federal law the CDC invoked to institute the moratorium — Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act — does not give the CDC authority to adopt a nationwide moratorium on evictions.
The complaint also claimed the CDC violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which the plaintiffs said required the CDC to give notice and solicit comment before enacting such a major rule, and the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), which requires agencies to consider the impact of a rule on small businesses.
On Dec. 27, President Trump signed into law legislation passed by Congress — the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 — that extended the eviction moratorium until Jan. 31.
On Jan. 6, the defendants in the case filed a partial motion to dismiss the suit on the grounds that “The Order at issue in this case now remains in effect solely by operation of an Act of Congress” and that “neither the Administrative Procedure Act nor the Regulatory Flexibility Act applies to Congress.”
The next day, the plaintiffs asked the court to temporarily stay the case because they had not challenged Congress’s extension of the eviction moratorium and they did not see the need to “expend resources litigating how Congress’s extension may impact Plaintiffs’ claims given its imminent expiration. By February 1, 2021, Congress’s extension of the Eviction Moratorium will have expired or the new administration will have extended the Eviction Moratorium.”
The government consented to the plaintiff’s motion to stay.
The plaintiffs said they would let the court know on Feb. 8 how they wish to proceed in the case. The court granted the motion for a temporary stay on Jan. 8. The suspension order means that the plaintiffs don’t have to respond to the defendants’ partial motion to dismiss until the stay is lifted.
The Alabama Association of Realtors declined to comment for this story.
Read the motion for a temporary stay:
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from the Georgia Association of Realtors.