The battle over the nationwide eviction moratorium continues.
A month after Judge Dabney L. Friedrich vacated the moratorium, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s legal right to extend the ban to properties outside of the federal government’s purview.
“[The Department of Health and Human Services] has demonstrated that lifting the national moratorium will exacerbate the significant public health risks identified by the CDC because, even with increased vaccinations, COVID-19 continues to spread and infect persons, and new variants are emerging,” the court wrote according to The Hill, which broke the story on Wednesday.
The moratorium has been extended several times throughout the pandemic, as the CDC warned mass evictions could lead to worsening coronavirus infection rates for the homeless and unsheltered. “Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings — like homeless shelters — by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.
Before the second moratorium extension in December, Alabama and Georgia’s Realtor associations and several other plaintiffs filed suit against the United States Department of Health and Human Services. They said tenants in their states illegally used CARES Act protections to stop paying rent, which has placed landlords and property owners behind the 8 ball.
Furthermore, they argued the HHS and the CDC had no legal standing to extend CARES Act protections beyond Department of Housing and Urban Development-funded housing. Judge Dabney L. Friedrich agreed with AAR and GAR’s argument and ruled in their favor, which sparked alarm among tenants and housing rights advocates.
“The DOJ should immediately appeal the flawed ruling and the Biden administration should continue to vigorously defend and enforce the moratorium, at least until emergency rental assistance provided by Congress reaches the renters who need it to remain stably housed,” National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel told Inman after the ruling on May 5.
However, Judge Friedrich agreed to give the Biden administration time to appeal, which has led to groups of landlords fighting for their right to begin evictions. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling protects at-risk tenants in Washington D.C. as the HHS readies itself for an appeal.
“[The HHS] has strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits,” the three-judge panel said in their order according to Bloomberg.
Although tenants and housing advocates are undoubtedly breathing easier, The Hill noted they’re not out of the woods yet. Even though landlords have been largely unable to execute evictions, that hasn’t stopped them from starting the process.
“A number of other judges across the country have ruled on the eviction ban’s lawfulness, with landlords holding a slight advantage in their win-loss record against the federal government,” the article read. “Corporate landlords filed more than 56,000 eviction actions since the eviction pause took effect last September, with almost half of those filed this year.”
As the June 30 moratorium deadline draws near, advocates are intensifying their efforts to have the federal government cover tenants’ rent debt. In an interview with ABC News Prime, Yentel said more than 10 million rental households are still struggling to pay rent.
“Renters will continue to struggle to pay rent after the pandemic unless Congress invests in the long-term solutions that are needed to keep the lowest income people safely and affordably housed,” she said.