Pandemic eviction moratorium is going before Supreme Court

As the nation continues on a path to pre-pandemic normality, an Alabama group of realtors has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt enforcement of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order that stops landlords from evicting renters who have not paid rent during the public health crisis, as NBC News reports.

According to AL.com, the Alabama Association of Realtors filed an emergency appeal on Thursday asking the high court to block the CDC measure designed to protect those who suffered wage loss during the pandemic and were unable to pay rent.

The CDC’s directive came into existence last September when a congressional eviction moratorium expired, and the measure banned property owners from initiating evictions and imposed potential criminal penalties for violators.

As reported by SCOTUSblog.com, a federal district court last month agreed with the realtor group that the CDC lacked the authority to impose a policy of this sort, but held that finding in abeyance until the government had sufficient time to mount an appeal. That prompted the group to request emergency intervention from the Supreme Court to lift the stay, arguing that “Congress never gave the CDC the staggering amount of power it now claims.”

In their emergency petition to Chief Justice John Roberts, the realtor group claimed that allowing the CDC order to remain in place is certain to “prolong the severe financial burdens borne by landlords under the moratorium for the past nine months.”

The group bolstered their argument with the claim that “landlords have been losing over $13 billion every month…and the total effect of the CDC’s overreach may reach up to $200 billion if it remains in effect for a year,” adding that given the dramatic drop in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths seen in recent weeks and months, the conditions used to justify the moratorium in the first place no longer exist.

In the wake of the prior court’s decision blocking enforcement of the moratorium, the Justice Department announced that it would challenge the ruling, stating that the realtor group “never attempted to claim irreparable injury stemming from the CDC order,” adding that “Congress has appropriated $46 billion in emergency rental assistance that benefits landlords” including those represented by the plaintiffs.

Furthermore, the DOJ asserted that “undisputed scientific evidence shows that evictions exacerbate the spread of COVID-19…and the harm to the public that would result from unchecked evictions cannot be undone,” though on what basis lawyers will contend that such a threat remains critical as coronavirus infections plummet remains to be seen.

According to an update posted on SCOTUSblog.com, on Friday afternoon, Chief Justice Roberts ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to respond to the realtor association’s request for emergency intervention, setting a due date of Thursday, June 10 by 5 p.m.