The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled to keep the federal eviction moratorium to in place, in a 5-4 decision in which Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined with liberals.
The decision is a blow for the National Association of Realtors, the powerful lobbying group that funded the challenge to the pandemic-related moratorium on behalf of two of its chapters.
The association had asked the court to act on an emergency basis to vacate a stay on a lower-court decision overturning the ban, saying the “stay will prolong the severe financial burdens borne by landlords under the moratorium for the past nine months.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's moratorium is currently set to expire July 31 after the Biden administration extended it last week, with the CDC saying it intended the move as the final extension. Some six million renter households are behind on rent, according to a recent Census survey.
Kavanaugh wrote in Tuesday's decision that he agreed with the lower-court ruling that the CDC had exceeded its authority but that its pending expiration swayed his thinking.
"Because the CDC plans to end the moratorium in only a few weeks, on July 31, and because those few weeks will allow for additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds, I vote at this time to deny the application to vacate the District Court’s stay of its order," he wrote.
State and local officials are scrambling to disburse more than $46 billion in rental relief before the moratorium expires.
The CDC issued an order in September blocking evictions for the nonpayment of rent, citing a 1944 public health law that gives the agency certain powers to prevent the spread of disease across state lines. The agency said evictions would force people to either double up with friends and family or turn to homeless shelters just as health officials were encouraging social distancing to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
“Landlords have been losing over $13 billion every month under the moratorium, and the total effect of the CDC’s overreach may reach up to $200 billion if it remains in effect for a year,” NAR said in its application for Supreme Court intervention.
Landlords — who are still on the hook for operating costs, property taxes and mortgage payments, regardless of whether tenants are paying rent — have challenged the ban in courts around the country, arguing that the CDC overstepped its authority.
A federal judge agreed in May, ordering that the moratorium be vacated. Days later, she granted the Department of Health and Human Services’ request for a stay of the decision, which an appeals court upheld as it considers the case.
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