State Associations Renew Effort to Block Eviction Ban

CDC building in Atlanta

© Jessica McGowan / Stringer - Getty Images News

REALTORS® are stepping in to stop another extension of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium, which exposes housing providers to further income loss. The Alabama and Georgia state REALTOR® associations—along with two housing providers and their property management companies—filed an emergency motion Wednesday night in federal court to block enforcement of the extension, which the CDC announced late Tuesday. Though the CDC’s order through Oct. 3 appears to be narrower in scope, affecting only those areas with high COVID-19 transmission, it still covers about 90% of renters in the country and could increase to 100% with higher rates of infection.

The Alabama and Georgia associations have been involved in an ongoing legal battle since last November to strike down the eviction ban and support the rights of property owners. The Supreme Court weighed in on the case this summer, saying the CDC couldn’t extend the moratorium beyond July 31 without Congressional approval of new legislation. Congress tried and failed to pass an extension bill last week, which NAR opposed. The two REALTOR® associations are now asking a U.S. District Court judge to uphold the Supreme Court’s interpretation.

The Department of Justice argues in court filings that this is a new eviction moratorium, not an extension of an existing one, and is necessary to continue helping struggling renters as spread of the Delta variant explodes in the U.S. But housing providers say the moratorium, which the CDC first put in place last September, has cost them more than $13 billion per month in unpaid rent and continue to urge for swift deployment of federal rental assistance as the solution.

The Legal Challenge

When the Alabama and Georgia associations launched their case last fall with the National Association of REALTORS®’ support, Judge Dabney Friedrich of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sided with housing providers. But her decision was stayed, and the moratorium was kept in place while the DOJ appealed. The moratorium lapsed July 31 but was resurrected by the Biden administration. President Joe Biden acknowledged Tuesday that the CDC’s latest extension likely faces tough odds in court but is “worth the effort.”

REALTORS® want the court to intervene again. “A majority of the Supreme Court made clear that the eviction moratorium exceeds the CDC’s statutory authority and could not be extended beyond July 31,” the plaintiffs said in court documents filed Wednesday. “The Supreme Court’s ruling was hardly ambiguous. Indeed, the White House clearly acknowledged that the Supreme Court had ruled that the CDC lacked authority to extend the moratorium.”

Allocating Rental Assistance

While lawsuits continue, NAR is focusing on swifter disbursement of rental assistance funds, which are now available in every state. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau debuted a new tool to apply for rental assistance last week. But only about 6.5% of the nearly $50 billion in funding—which NAR was instrumental in securing—has been distributed, according to government data.

“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,” NAR President Charlie Oppler said in a statement Wednesday. “NAR has always advocated that the best solution for all parties is 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.”