In a victory for landlords and real estate agents, a federal judge on Wednesday vacated a national eviction moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to curb the spread of coronavirus, court records show.
What You Need To Know
- A U.S. judge has ruled in favor of the Alabama and Georgia Realtor associations in a case against the CDC
- The CDC had established a nationwide eviction moratorium to help prevent coronavirus spread
- A Tampa-area lawyer calls the federal judge's decision "surprising and very revolutionary."
Later Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said it would appeal the ruling and said it sought a stay of the decision, pending appeal.
The judge ruled in a lawsuit from the Alabama and Georgia associations of Realtors, among others, who alleged that the eviction moratorium exceeded the CDC’s statutory authority, violated the notice and comment requirement and was arbitrary and capricious, all in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, according to a document from U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The moratorium had been set to expire June 30.
Charles Gallagher, a real estate attorney at Tampa Bay law firm Gallagher and Associates, called the judge's decision "surprising and very revolutionary."
A "dramatic and very very sweeping decision by this judge," he said.
Gallagher emphasized that a district court's opinion typically applies only to the litigants or to that jurisdiction. In this case, he said, the judge has declared that the order applies nationally.
Diane Yentel, CEO of National Low Income Housing Coalition, said she thought the ruling — while "written more starkly than previous ones" — would affect only the plaintiffs or the renters in the court's jurisdiction.
The eviction moratorium brought relief to homeless shelters and other nonprofit organizations concerned about the the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, especially in tourism-heavy regions such as Central Florida, where tens of thousands of people lost their jobs.
On its website, the CDC cites a study of 12 U.S. cities in which nearly half of families that entered emergency shelters had experienced an eviction or another problem with a landlord.
The Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida told Spectrum News in an email statement from CEO Allison Krall that "we know there are many of our neighbors who will be at risk of homelessness" when the moratorium expires.
"While there is a lot of uncertainty about today’s federal ruling regarding the CDC’s eviction moratorium, the Coalition stands ready to help those in our community who have been impacted by Covid-19," Krall said.
In her order Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich wrote: "It is the role of the political branches, and not the courts, to assess the merits of policy measures designed to combat the spread of disease, even during a global pandemic.
"The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not."
In the past few months, at least six federal courts have considered challenges to the CDC’s order. A district judge in Ohio ruled in March that “the eviction moratorium in the CDC’s orders exceeds the statutory authority Congress gave the agency.”
But that judge, and others, did not issue injunctions, which would have stopped the CDC from being able to enforce the moratorium until it expires.
On Monday, a new interim final rule aiming to strengthen the moratorium’s enforcement took effect. According to the rule issued by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, debt collectors can be prosecuted if they don’t inform tenants of their potential rights under the order.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Check back for more.