Judge rules COVID eviction moratorium is government overreach, strikes it down

WASHINGTON – A federal judge has thrown out a national moratorium on evictions enacted last year to help Americans who have fallen behind on their rent during the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of the District of Columbia ruled Wednesday the federal government overreached in enacting the ban.

“The court recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious public health crisis that has presented unprecedented challenges for public health officials and the nation as a whole,” Friedrich wrote in a 20-page decision. “The pandemic has triggered difficult policy decisions that have had enormous real-world consequences. The nationwide eviction moratorium is one such decision.”

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not have the authority under the Public Health Service Act to impose a national moratorium, Friedrich said.

Justice Department spokesperson Anthony Coley confirmed via tweet that it would fight the ruling.

“The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a notice of appeal to the DC Circuit of this morning’s ruling vacating the CDC’s eviction moratorium. Also we seek a stay of the decision, pending appeal,” he said.

Related:A house divided: As millions of Americans face evictions, others buy dream homes during COVID-19

President Joe Biden

At the White House, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Biden administration is reviewing the ruling.

“We recognize, of course, the importance of the eviction moratorium for Americans who have fallen behind on rent during the pandemic,” she said.

Congress enacted a 120-day eviction moratorium last spring as part of the CARES Act, which provided relief for American families and workers suffering from financial hardship because of COVID. When the moratorium expired, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the CDC, issued a broader eviction moratorium that applied to all rental properties nationwide.

In March, President Joe Biden extended the moratorium despite objections from landlords, real estate agents and others who argued it was causing them financial hardship and infringing on their property rights. The Alabama Association of Realtors sued to stop the eviction ban.

The current moratorium is scheduled to expire June 30.

With Friedrich’s decision, “there are now numerous conflicting court rulings at the district court level, with several judges ruling in favor of the moratorium and several ruling against,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The Biden administration “should immediately appeal the flawed ruling” and “continue to vigorously defend and enforce the moratorium, at least until emergency rental assistance provided by Congress reaches the renters who need it to remain stably housed,” she tweeted.

Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.

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