The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is facing another challenge to its federal eviction moratorium, which has prevented evictions of renters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Florida REALTORS® filed a lawsuit this week in the U.S. District Court in Tampa that alleges the moratorium is “an unprecedented and unlawful federal administrative order” that oversteps the CDC’s legal authority.
The moratorium, which has been extended through subsequent orders and most recently extended on March 28, is scheduled to expire on June 30.
Other lawsuits nationwide have been seeking to overturn the moratorium as well, with increasing success. A U.S. District Court judge for the District of Columbia ruled earlier this month that CDC’s nationwide eviction moratorium is unlawful. But the U.S. Department of Justice immediately filed an appeal. That has resulted in a temporary stay for the order, which means the CDC eviction moratorium remains in place nationwide pending another hearing.
Other REALTOR® associations have challenged the CDC’s order, including the Georgia and Alabama state REALTOR® associations. The lawsuits stem from growing concern over how the moratorium is affecting housing providers, who face financial struggles as they have been unable to collect rent from tenants facing their own financial struggles for more than a year.
The Florida REALTORS® lawsuit states, “The CDC predicates this unprecedented action on its statutory authority to prevent interstate spread of disease, but that authority does not make the CDC the nation’s landlord-in-chief any more than it places the CDC in charge of citizens’ social media or national minimum wage.”
The lawsuit cites examples of tenants who have not paid rent in five months and are delinquent by more than $4,000. The Florida REALTORS® argues in its lawsuit that “the power to interfere with private contracts between landlord and tenant, forcing a landlord to continue as such and prohibiting the landlord from exercising contractual and state-based rights to repossess property from non-paying residential tenants who materially breach their lease agreements, is not contained within the Constitution and any enumerated power.”
The CDC has argued that evictions threaten to increase the spread of COVID-19 by forcing people to move into close quarters. The CDC order requires tenants who seek protection under the moratorium to meet certain criteria, such as a job loss, and to show an inability to make full rental payments by submitting an “Eviction Protection Declaration.”
Read more about the National Association of REALTORS®’ position on the eviction ban: Housing Providers Struggle Under Eviction Moratorium and NAR’s Coronavirus FAQ for Housing Providers