A federal judge struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) moratorium on evictions Wednesday, finding that the agency exceeded its authority under the Public Health Service Act in establishing the ban. In response, the Department of Justice filed a request for a temporary administrative stay on the order, which was granted Thursday morning.
The CDC implemented the nationwide eviction moratorium in September, protecting tenants who are unable to make rental payments. In doing so, the agency cited the Public Health Service Act, which enables the CDC to take measures to stop the spread of disease between states, and specifically to provide for “inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination… and other measures.” In brief, the agency asserted that such a ban was needed to prevent mass displacement of tenants, which would have lead to the further spread of COVID-19.
Writing the opinion for the US District Court for the District of Columbia, federal judge Dabney Friedrich concluded that the agency’s actions do not fall within the scope of the law. “The Public Health Service Act authorizes the Department to combat the spread of disease through a range of measures, but these measures plainly do not encompass the nationwide eviction moratorium set forth in the CDC Order,” she said.
The decision comes as a victory to many landlords, who have been restricted in filing evictions since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Association of Realtors applauded the ruling, saying that there is no longer a need for the moratorium given falling unemployment numbers and a growing economy. Conversely, housing advocates maintain that there is a need for an eviction moratorium in place with the ongoing pandemic. Advocates additionally cite the need to distribute the billions of dollars in rental assistance allocated in President Biden’s COVID-19 relief package.
Several prior challenges have been brought against the CDC moratorium on evictions, with some proving to be successful in those jurisdictions. With the administrative stay granted this morning, the moratorium is still in effect pending further decision on the case.