The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued a new ban on evictions that runs until Oct. 3. The action comes after lawmakers in the U.S. House failed in a last-minute attempt to extend the previous moratorium.
National Association of REALTORS® policy analysts say they’re assessing the order and its impact on small housing providers and exploring all legal options.
The new eviction moratorium from the CDC will be more limited in scope and will apply only to counties with “heightened levels of community transmission” of COVID-19. But as the delta variant quickly spreads, that covers a vast majority of the country. In a news conference Tuesday, President Joe Biden said he expected 90% of renters would be covered.
The new order will likely face more legal challenges as housing providers scramble to make up for more than a year of lost rent and face a slow issuance of nearly $50 billion in emergency rental assistance. More than $13 billion per month in rent went unpaid during the last CDC-ordered moratorium, which was in place for about 10 months, starting in September 2020; the CDC action came after a congressional ban on evictions, passed in March 2020, expired.
“About half of all housing providers are mom-and-pop operators, and without rental income, they cannot pay their own bills or maintain their properties,” said NAR President Charlie Oppler, a broker-owner from New Jersey. “NAR has always advocated the best solution for all parties was rental assistance paid directly to housing providers to cover the rent and utilities of any vulnerable tenants during the pandemic. No housing provider wants to evict a tenant and considers it only as a last resort.”
Expect More Legal Challenges
Meanwhile, lawsuits loom and previous court rulings already have called into question any extension of the eviction ban.
The Alabama and Georgia associations of REALTORS®, with NAR’s help, brought a lawsuit against the original CDC moratorium, challenging the agency’s authority to impose a ban on evictions. In May, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in that case the CDC overstepped its authority, but the judge kept the moratorium in place during the government's appeal, which is still pending.
In June, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that the CDC exceeded its authority with the ban. Four justices called on the ban to end immediately. But the court allowed the ban to stay in effect until its July 31 deadline to allow for more time for a transition and for distribution of rental assistance.
Biden acknowledged on Tuesday that the newest order will likely face more legal battles. “Any call for a moratorium based on the Supreme Court’s recent decision is likely to face obstacles,” Biden said. “I’ve indicated to the CDC, I’d like them to look at other alternatives than the one that is in existence, which the [Supreme] Court has declared they’re not going to allow to continue.”
Meanwhile, last week, the National Apartment Association filed a lawsuit in federal claims court that demands the federal government compensate housing providers due to their “severe economic losses” from the eviction moratorium. That complaint estimates housing providers face $26.6 billion in debt and contends that the CDC’s ban violates the rights of housing providers.
Rental Assistance Is Still Available
NAR has been a strong advocate of securing rental assistance for tenants. This is including two pieces of legislation that obtained nearly $50 billion for this federal emergency program. As of last week, however, only about 6.5% of those funds have been distributed, and NAR is calling on states to move with more urgency.
“Rental assistance is now available in every state to cover up to a year-and-a-half of back and future bills,” Oppler said. “It’s time to put our full efforts behind its deployment so that the housing market can return to its former, healthy function.”
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a new online tool where renters and housing providers who continue to face pandemic-related financial hardships can locate and apply for payment assistance for rent, utilities, and other expenses. The new Rental Assistance Finder, at consumerfinance.gov/renthelp, can guide housing providers and renters to aid programs in their area.
NAR also offers a webpage devoted to information for its members, including links to emergency rental assistance programs, government resources, and more. Access it at NAR.realtor. State-by-state eviction moratorium laws are also accessible here.