The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended a nationwide ban on tenant evictions until June 30. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed the order on March 28 as a way to curb the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.
While housing advocates lauded the move to aid cash-strapped renters, property owners said the CDC’s order caused “financial hardship” and infringed on property rights.
The CDC’s moratorium to extend the eviction ban will be effective starting April 1. According to the order, evicted renters looking for a new place to stay must move into shared housing or other settings – exposing themselves to other people. This subsequently “leads to multiple outcomes that increase the risk of COVID-19.”
The document cited the American Housing Survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau, which said that 32 percent of renters would move in with friends or family members upon eviction. This would then “introduce new household members and potentially increase household crowding.” Unfortunately, this also increases the risk of individuals in a household contracting COVID-19.
“Studies show that COVID-19 transmission occurs readily within the household. The secondary attack rate in households has been estimated to be 17 percent, and household contact as estimated to be six times more likely to become infected by an index case of COVID-19 than other close contacts,” the moratorium explained.
Walensky’s March 28 order defended eviction bans as key public health actions. Eviction bans “can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease” – akin to quarantine, isolation and social distancing, the document said. Being prevented from moving out allows people who suffer from severe COVID-19 to isolate themselves. It also permits state and local authorities to easily address the spread of the coronavirus through stay-at-home orders.
Property owners aren’t pleased with the CDC’s decision to extend the coronavirus eviction ban
The March 28 eviction moratorium builds on an eviction ban from last year. The CARES Act which passed in March 2020 provided a 120-day moratorium on evictions and gave certain protections from tenants. While this prior moratorium expired in July 2020, it supplemented existing tenant protection orders implemented at the state and local levels. The Trump administration later implemented another eviction moratorium in September until the end of the year, with most renters included. (Related: CDC becomes America’s landlord, halts evictions indefinitely.)
The CDC outlined four requirements for renters before they can qualify for protections under the order. Couples filing jointly must earn a yearly income of $198,000 or less, while single filers must earn a yearly income of $99,000 or less. They should also demonstrate having sought government aid to pay rental fees. Furthermore, renters who wish to qualify should declare inability to pay because of COVID-19 hardships and that eviction will likely render them homeless.
However, a number of Americans did not receive the CDC’s moratorium warmly. Landlords in several states have been asking the courts to scrap the health agency’s order. They believe the CDC’s mandate infringes on their property rights and causes them financial hardship.
At least six prominent lawsuits have challenged CDC’s authority to block evictions, with three judges ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. Three other judges have ruled against the cases, with the plaintiffs appealing.
Back in September 2020, the National Apartment Association and four individual landlords filed a lawsuit in federal court against the order. The lawsuit challenged the federal government’s eviction moratorium, implemented after the CARES Act ban expired. The non-profit group New Civil Liberties Alliance represented the plaintiffs in federal court. In a statement, NCLA Executive Director and General Counsel Mark Chenoweth said: “When will the federal government learn that Congress makes the laws, not federal agencies?”
District Judge John Barker ruled in favor of a group of property managers and landlords who sued the federal health agency. His February 2021 decision said: “The court concludes that the federal government’s … power to regulate interstate commerce, and enact laws necessary and proper to that end, does not include the power to impose the challenged eviction moratorium.”
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