An Alabama real estate group is leading the charge against the federal government’s latest eviction moratorium as the White House continues to buy time for struggling renters and disburse funds to landlords.
The Alabama Association of Realtors and other groups on Wednesday filed a lawsuit that takes aim at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest directive to ban evictions in areas with high levels of coronavirus spread.
In the filing, the group argues the Supreme Court had already ruled against a previous moratorium extending beyond July. It also highlights President Joe Biden’s own public statements where he expressed skepticism that a new moratorium could stand up to judicial scrutiny.
The CDC extended the moratorium, the lawsuit argues, “for nakedly political reasons—to ease the political pressure, shift the blame to the courts for ending the moratorium, and use litigation delays to achieve a policy objective.”
The latest moratorium adds a new wrinkle that CDC officials hope will help it fare better against legal challenges. The new ban on evictions is billed primarily as a public health measure to keep people in their homes, and will apply only to areas with high levels of coronavirus spread. Still, the protections would apply to the vast majority of renters.
Shortly before the CDC announced the new ban earlier this week, Biden expressed his own doubts about whether the new moratorium would stand up to judicial scrutiny.
“The bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster,” Biden said Tuesday in a news conference. “But there are several key scholars who think that it may, and it’s worth the effort.”
As the new ban makes its way through the courts, the administration is hoping states can make more progress getting federal funding for back rent into the hands of landlords. The funding was approved in previous COVID-19 relief bills, but the program has been slow to roll out in some states.
“At a minimum, by the time it gets litigated, it will probably give some additional time while we’re getting that $45 billion out to people who are, in fact, behind on the rent and don’t have the money,” Biden said.
The Alabama Association of Realtors used the president’s words in their filing the next day, arguing they were evidence the administration was merely stalling while going against the spirit of the Supreme Court’s ruling in June.
“Indeed, the White House’s announcement on July 29 that the CDC would not—and could not lawfully—extend the eviction moratorium received a massive blowback from Capitol Hill,” the group said in its lawsuit. “Facing extraordinary political pressure, the CDC finally caved by issuing the August 3 extension with minor tweaks but no new source of legal authority.”
The trade group’s lawsuit comes as millions of renters remain behind on rent and landlords have expressed frustration at the limited options available to them under a new moratorium.
Read the complete lawsuit filing below.