Real Estate Groups File Legal Challenge Against New Federal Eviction Ban

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As expected, real estate trade groups have lobbed a legal challenge at the new federal eviction ban imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just days after the previous one expired. 

The groups — which include landlords, developers, and the Georgia and Alabama Association of Realtors filed a petition in a Washington, D.C., district court Wednesday, arguing that the CDC does not have the legal authority to impose the ban. 

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The petition is a continuation of a previous one, filed in the same court, on the first federal eviction ban, which lasted from September 2020 through the end of July. 

The judge in the case, Dabney Friedrich, found that the ban was indeed unconstitutional in May, but allowed it to stand pending an appeal. The case then made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a 5-4 vote upheld the district judge’s ruling, but allowed the moratorium to stand through its July 31 expiration date. 

President Joseph Biden invoked that ruling last week, saying that he did not have the executive authority to extend the moratorium past the deadline, and punted the ball to Congress instead. After Congress also failed to act, and the moratorium lifted, the CDC imposed a new targeted one on Tuesday, covering counties where the delta variant is widespread. The narrower nature of the ban was supposed to circumvent the limits to the CDC’s authority by implementing a new moratorium rather than extending the old one. 

The new petition refers to Biden’s own statements about the executive branch’s lack of authority. “Critically, the CDC knew that the White House had repeatedly stated that new legislation was necessary to extend the moratorium, given the absence of executive legal authority,” the petition reads. 

The legal challenge adds a new layer of uncertainty for both tenants and landlords. The CDC’s new moratorium is supposed to last 60 days, until Oct. 3, which advocates and public officials hope will provide a further window to distribute the $46 billion pot of rental aid provided by the last two coronavirus relief bills. 

Only 6.5 percent of that aid had been disbursed nationwide as of late July, with Florida state and local governments giving out just $110 million of the $1.4 billion in federal dollars meant for tenants and landlords.

Chava Gourarie can be reached at cgourarie@commercialobserver.com.