Supreme Court Keeps Eviction Ban in Place

The ruling followed President Biden's announcement to extend the moratorium until July 31.

Photo by Claire Anderson on Unsplash

The Supreme Court has denied a request to block the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium order. The decision was a 5-4 vote on Tuesday to keep the ban in place until July 31, a plan announced by President Biden last week. 

A group of landlords, real estate companies and trade associations asked the justices to step in for a new emergency vote to end the moratorium, however, that did not happen. 

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was the fifth and deciding vote, issued a brief statement following the decision stating that he voted in favor of keeping the ban in place “because the C.D.C. plans to end the moratorium in only a few weeks, on July 31, and because those few weeks will allow for additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds.”

He also stated that Congress would have to pass new legislation if the CDC wanted to extend the moratorium past the end of next month. Also voting to keep the extension were Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. 

This article was originally posted on June 25, 2021 and was updated to include the above additional information.

With the federal ban on evictions set to expire on June 30, the Biden Administration plans to extend the moratorium for another month. This marks the third and final occasion in which an extension has been granted. 

The moratorium was initiated in September 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent the mass evictions that would have resulted from the pandemic. In January, President Biden signed an executive order extending the moratorium to March 31.

Then in March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the order to June 30.

READ ALSO: What’s in Biden’s $1.9T Relief Bill for Multifamily

A setback came on May 5, when U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich halted the eviction order, ruling that the CDC did not have the authority to impose the ban. However, Friedrich immediately granted a temporary stay after the U.S. Justice Department appealed. 

Photo by David Everett Strickler on Unsplash

According to an announcement made Thursday by the Biden Administration, the latest moratorium is the first of several steps in the coming weeks that are intended to support struggling residents. Other initiatives include a housing affordability summit, coordination with local officials and legal aid organizations to minimize evictions after the moratorium expires and new guidance from the Treasury Department to streamline distribution of $21.5 billion in emergency aid. 

Critics of the moratorium responded quickly to the extension. “It remains extremely hard for me to understand how our politicians and the people at the CDC just don’t understand the unfairness of this position. The pandemic has hit our country very hard and especially those people of modest means,” Alan Hammer, an attorney and multifamily legal specialist at Brach Eichler in New Jersey, told Multi-Housing News.

“In the face of that, they have determined that landlords are essentially not entitled to have their rent paid by people who are suffering,” he added.

State Solutions

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state will pay off all past-due rent that has accumulated as a result of the pandemic. The step is intended to ensure that landlords get paid, while giving renters who have been unable to keep up with payments an opportunity to start fresh.

According to an Associated Press report, California has $5.2 billion from aid packages approved by Congress to cover rent. However, the state has been behind in distributing these payments, and of the $490 million in requests for assistance it has received through May 31, only $32 million has been paid. Twelve cities and 10 counties in California run their own rental assistance programs, making it harder to keep track of funds. 

Under a plan approved by the New Jersey legislature on June 24, the state’s eviction moratorium would end earlier for residents with higher incomes and  the state would distribute an additional $500 million more in rental relief. 

New Jersey renters whose household income is above 80 percent of their county’s median income would be protected from evictions until Aug. 31. Residents with a lower income would be protected until Dec. 31. After unanimous approval by the state assembly and senate, the bill was sent to Gov. Phil Murphy. 

The Industry Weighs In

Leading multifamily organizations responded to the extension with  disappointment. 

“The National Apartment Association remains fundamentally opposed to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention’s eviction order,” said NAA President & CEO Bob Pinnegar in a statement. “Each passing month further escalates the risk of losing an ever-increasing amount of rental housing, ultimately jeopardizing the availability of sale, sustainable and affordable housing for all Americans.”

A statement by NMHC contends that the eviction moratorium is going in the wrong direction and will stall the significant progress made toward rebuilding the economy.

“Instead of this blanket federal policy, this pandemic has already shown that targeted, efficient relief works,” NMHC commented. “As we transition away from unsustainable moratoriums, we remain committed to implementing workable solutions for renters facing housing instability and helping the country recover.”

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