Many states have imposed their own rent moratorium.
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A federal judge issued a radical ruling that would overturn an eviction moratorium for the coronavirus pandemic established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The case was brought by the Alabama Association of Realtors, which argued that the CDC does not have the power to tell landlords that they cannot evict people during a pandemic. The judge agreed.
“It is the role of political powers, and not the courts, to assess the merits of policy measures designed to combat the spread of disease, even during a global pandemic,” wrote Judge Dabney Friedrich, of the US District Court for DC in its decision.
“The question for the Court is very limited: does the Public Health Service Act give CDC the legal authority to impose a moratorium on eviction at the national level? It is not like this”.
That law empowers the CDC to make and enforce the regulations it deems necessary to prevent “the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases.”
But the judge said that in this case the CDC went too far.
There have been several rulings in this regard with contradictory decisions. The latter goes further than any of them in taking steps to tear down the moratorium on evictions across the country.
Doubts about a stay of the judgment
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit could now issue a stay of the judgment, which would keep CDC’s eviction protections in place, for now.
“My hope is that the DC Circuit Court will quickly issue a stay and this ruling will have no effect,” he told NPR. Shamus Roller, Executive Director of the National Housing Law Project.
“The underlying decision in this case is pretty weak, in my opinion,” says Roller. “In December, Congress extended the CDC order. So clearly Congress believes that the CDC has this authority. “
But Roller said that it is unclear if the appellate court will issue a stay and which direction will make the appeal decision. He recalled that the Trump administration appointed many conservative federal judges who it suspects could rule against the government that wields this kind of power, telling landlords not to evict tenants during a public health emergency.
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs in this latest case, the Alabama Association of Realtors, said they are pleased with the ruling.
Millions are behind on rent payments
The Census Department reported that nearly 7 million Americans are still behind on their rent.
And while Congress has authorized about $ 50 billion in rental assistance money, the vast majority of that allocation has yet to reach the people who need it.
As such, housing groups are concerned that without the CDC order, many families will be evicted, something that could otherwise be avoided. They worry that many families may end up homeless, simply because they lost their jobs during the worst pandemic in more than a century.