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CDC eviction ban reaches Supreme Court; Atlanta case a vital piece in Covid debate

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By David Pendered

A lawyer handling the federal appeal in Atlanta of the CDC eviction moratorium on tenants during the Covid pandemic said Friday he holds little hope the Supreme Court will use a case it received Thursday to stop the moratorium.

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Residential tenants cannot be evicted for lack of payment if they meet certain requirements related to COVID-19, under a ruling by the CDC that is being challenged by landlords. File/Credit: Kelly Jordan

“I doubt it will be successful, I hope it is, but if not I’m looking for our case in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals [in Atlanta] to negate this,” Caleb Kruckenberg, litigation counsel for the New Civil Liberties Alliance, said of the CDC’s moratorium.

“It’s an important issue and we need a decision soon,” Kruckenberg said of the moratorium that’s to expire June 30 – unless it is extended again.

The Supreme Court has not been asked to rule on the merits of the CDC moratorium, Kruckenberg said. The issue is whether to uphold a District Court judge’s decision to defer her own order halting the moratorium in order to provide the Biden administration time prepare its appeal of her ruling. Some media reports have suggested the Supreme Court now has the case to determine the scope of the CDC’s authority in this type of situation.

One question is the extent of the CDC’s authority to issue a national moratorium on evictions in the face of a public health crisis. The CDC determined it has such authority, to prevent those evicted from crossing state lines and potentially spreading the virus. Several judges have ruled the CDC does not have such authority.

Meanwhile, the appellate court in Atlanta heard arguments May 14 on the case that Kruckenberg is helping to handle. The court did not indicate when it may issue a ruling. Though the current CDC moratorium expires June 30, Kruckenberg and others have noted the clock will not expire on the central question of the CDC’s authority to issue this type of national mandate.

In the meantime, landlords nationwide are losing from $13.8 billion to $19 billion a month in unpaid rental payments that are covered by the moratorium, according to the paper submitted Thursday to the Supreme Court. The Georgia Association of Realtors is a party in the case being led by the Alabama Association of Realtors that states:

  • “The CDC shifted the pandemic’s financial burdens from the nation’s 30 to 40 million renters to its 10 to 11 million landlords – most of whom, like applicants, are individuals and small businesses – resulting in over $13 billion in unpaid rent per month….
  • “Landlords collectively continue to lose between $13.8 [billion] and $19 billion each month in unpaid rent due to the eviction moratorium, and the cumulative impact of the CDC’s order over the course of a year will be close to $200 billion. And many of the millions of landlords affected by the moratorium are small business owners, some of whom have not collected rent from some tenants in over a year.”

The legal battle over the CDC’s moratorium has been waged in at least six federal courts around the country. Four have halted the moratorium and two upheld it – including a ruling in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, which is the case Kruckenberg has appealed.

The case submitted Thursday to the Supreme Court involves a ruling against the CDC’s moratorium. The wrinkle is that U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich, in Washington, who struck down the moratorium on May 5, issued another order, on May 14, that said her May 5 ruling will not take effect while the Biden administration prepares an appeal of the initial ruling.

The May 14 ruling was appealed. The appellate court upheld the May 14 ruling in an opinion released Wednesday. On Thursday, the request was submitted to the Supreme Court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit included this observation in its ruling on the moratorium issued by the CDC under the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services:

  • “To be sure, HHS has not previously imposed a rental-eviction moratorium under Section 264. But no public health crisis even approaching the scale and gravity of this one has occurred since the Public Health Service Act was passed in 1944….
  • “HHS has demonstrated ‘that lifting the national moratorium will ‘exacerbate the significant public health risks identified by [the] CDC’ because, even with increased vaccinations, COVID-19 continues to spread and infect persons, and new variants are emerging.”

 

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David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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4 Comments

  1. PAMELA Davis June 4, 2021 11:24 pm

    I understand the landlord wants the rent, but people are actually struggling, stressing, and really getting violent now. It’s hard to rent anything because so many people have an eviction filed. New residence will not rent to you with that on your record. It’s going to start a riot if they evict people all over these states. The streets are talking violence and I do not want to be a victim trying to come home after work. I ask in Jesus name Please extend the moratorium once again so people can feel a little better about trying to go to work. Home owners and apartments do not count your unemployment as steady income to get new residence. Also you’re kept out because you’ve just starting a new job. We all need counseling, this is very stressful to me. It’s not ok to die just so landlords can say I got my money. Where are the morals and human side of all of this. Trading places with someone in the office who make these life and death situations would be an eye opener. It’s like sitting on death row. Please read with Understanding.Report

    Reply
    1. Patti Robinson June 5, 2021 12:27 pm

      Where’s your compassion for the landlords who are losing money and property, because for many it’s their main source of income? How is that ok? People have had plenty of time to find alternative living solutions, and businesses are hiring everywhere I go!Report

      Reply
  2. Ivonne June 23, 2021 7:32 am

    What I find interesting is that People think Landlords just want there money. I would say people don’t need to die so that the mortgage companies, banks, repair personnel, CITY TAXES and insurance companies can all get paid and the LANDLORD doesn’t lose a property that they worked very hard to acquire and maintain. If people are really in need , they should have court and A JUDGE should prove if they are really in need. There are people really in need and there are people just taking advantage of the situation. AS A LANDLORD, I would like to see the people who really need help get it. ONCE THE BANK take the property they wouldn’t care about any eviction they will just throw you out and put it on the market like they did before when thousands lost there rental properties. I hear there is a shortage of workers, for hire everywhere and no one wearing a mask. I read about people quitting there jobs because they saved so much or paid off all there debts. It is interesting that every one thinks renters are can’t pay and no one really knows that for sure. I know my renter started working and for over a year has not paid one cent of rent. I know I worked two jobs for over six months to make sure I can cover all the expenses. SO PLEASE STOP being one sided. I have plenty of expenses that I need to cover and I am not a million and paid over 5K in taxes last year. I should not have to pay for over a year of my tenant’s rent. Also, I was late on my TAXES to Trenton and they charged me LATE FEE….. REALLY , they don’t want tenants to pay the rent but THEY WANT THERE TAXES ON TIME. Why is that??? Why don’t you work a second job and pay my tenants rent since you don’t want them to die, so that I don’t end up losing my life’s work. THERE ARE ALWAYS TWO SIDES TO THE STORY. I would not care about rent if you protected my rights as an American as well. IT IS VERY UNFAIR , that I need to stress about losing my properties to the CITY or the MORTGAGE COMPANY, while others get to continue living rent free. If COVID last three years will you then allow for thousand to lose there rental properties in order to let people live free.
    WOULD YOU GO TO WORK FOR FREE? Because I have to go and work on the properties regardless if they pay the rent or not. It is so easy to JUDGE people when you are not in there situation. SO PLEASE START ASKING CITIES to REMOVE ALL TAXES , landlord aren’t getting rent and Keep extending mortgage deferments, why are those expired ??? IT NOT about Compassion, it is about being realistic. WHY isn’t the CDC extending deferment of mortgage and halting TAX payments. While did I have to pay the gov’t taxes when I am losing rents , just because I needed to work two jobs to pay my bills. WHERE is the democratic process because this seems like a dictatorship. Since, when is any agency allowed to prevent people from collecting monies owed thru contractual agreements that should be upheld in the courts. MY DUE PROCESS is void all of sudden , I am less then human because I am a landlord that only WANTS MONEY!!!. People can’t live for free because It isn’t FREEE for me to own it. SO blame the mortgage companies, insurance companies, and THE CITY for the taxes they impose. WHY can’t I just say my renter isn’t paying so I can’t pay without them taking MY PROPERTY.Report

    Reply
  3. Alex Nilisson September 28, 2021 2:15 am

    Thank you for bringing up such an undoubtedly important topic. When faced with a public health emergency, how far does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have the power to impose a nationwide moratorium on evictions? As established by the CDC, it has the power to prohibit individuals who were evicted from transmitting the virus over state borders. On more than one occasion, judges have found this to be true. CBD COVIDReport

    Reply

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