The Biden administration has extended the nation’s eviction moratorium for another three months, to shield those who struggle to pay rent from being removed from their home.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), signed the extension on March 29. The moratorium, which was to expire on March 31, was extended through June 30.
The federal eviction ban was first enacted in September 2020 by the CDC as part of the Trump administration’s effort to prevent the further spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. The idea was that evicted individuals often move into crowded homeless shelters or shared living spaces with relatives or friends, undermining social distancing.
The order only applies to individuals earning less than $99,000 annually, or $198,000 for couples. To fully invoke the order’s protections, renters also need to demonstrate that they’ve sought government help to pay the rent, declare that they can’t pay rent as a result of pandemic-related financial loss, and affirm they’re likely to become homeless if evicted.
The CDC moratorium doesn’t prohibit landlords from initiating eviction proceedings, although tenants could use the federal order as a defense in court. It’s up to individual judges to decide whether to accept that, based on their own interpretations of how the order should be applied.
A number of lawsuits have challenged the legal grounds for the moratorium. Landlords in several states, backed by business and industry organizations such as the National Apartment Association (NAA) and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), have sued to revoke the ban, citing economic damages and infringement of private property rights.
“While the CDC has an inherent interest in slowing and preventing transmission of communicable disease, the eviction-moratorium order does not fall under their purview and overrules state laws throughout the country that protect both rental housing providers and their residents,” the NAA said in a December 2020 statement about a lawsuit filed in North Carolina.
Another lawsuit, filed by a group of Ohio landlords and NAHB, emphasized that the CDC, as a federal agency, can’t bypass Congress to waive state laws.
“The CDC’s moratorium is a sweeping expansion of federal power over the rights of property owners nationwide,” said Steve Simpson, a senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative legal group representing the coalition.
“Fortunately, Congress never gave the CDC that authority, and the Constitution’s separation of powers does not allow an agency to make up the law as it goes along,” Simpson said. “The courts shouldn’t allow the CDC’s power grab to continue.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey conducted earlier this month, more than 10 million Americans aren’t current on rent payments, including 5.4 million who expect eviction in the next two months.