U.S. Supreme Court maintains CDC’s pandemic-related residential eviction ban

A woman walks past the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday left in place the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ban on residential evictions imposed last year to combat the spread of COVID-19 and prevent homelessness during the pandemic, dealing a setback to landlords who had challenged the policy.

The justices declined a request made by a group of landlords to allow a federal judge’s decision to block the eviction moratorium to go into effect nationwide while litigation in the dispute continues. The moratorium is due to expire on July 31.

The decision was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the court’s three liberal justices to deny the landlords’ request.

The Atlanta-based CDC has said 30 million to 40 million people could be at risk of eviction without the moratorium. Advocacy groups have said low-income renters were particularly vulnerable.

The landlord groups, led by the Alabama Association of Realtors, sued to challenge the moratorium, arguing that the CDC exceeded its authority under a federal law called the Public Health Service Act. They wrote in court papers: “Congress never gave the CDC the staggering amount of power it now claims.”

The groups said an eviction ban is no longer needed for public health reasons in light of declining COVID-19 cases and deaths. They also cited the CDC’s May 13 announcement that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors.

Landlords nationwide have been losing more than $13 billion in unpaid rent every month as a result of the CDC’s ban, the groups said.

The CDC issued a national eviction ban on all residential rental properties last September to facilitate self-isolation, contain the spread of COVID-19 and prevent homelessness. It acted after the expiration of a narrower previous ban enacted by the U.S. Congress. The CDC’s moratorium has been extended three times, once by Congress and twice by the agency itself.

Congress also approved $46.5 billion in rental assistance designed to reach landlords, but aid has been slow to trickle out.

Washington-based U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled in favor of the landlords in May, but put her ruling on hold pending the government’s appeal in the case. The landlords appealed to the Supreme Court after a lower appellate court rejected their request to unfreeze Friedrich’s ruling.

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