Judge overturns national eviction ban

May 5, 2021, 5:15 PM UTC

One of the chief safeguards for renters who have fallen behind on payments to their landlords during the pandemic has been struck down by a federal judge. And that could result in millions of people facing eviction.

The ruling, by Federal Judge Dabney Friedrich, struck down the national eviction moratorium that was first put in place last September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It was extended in March, through June. But Friedrich said in her ruling that the moratorium never should have been enforceable.

“The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not,” she wrote.

As many as 20% of the nation’s renters are behind in their payments due to the pandemic. Landlords have argued the ban on evictions was harmful to them, as they were still responsible for making mortgage payments on the properties, while no renter income was being collected.

Federal officials have argued this is a public health imperative, since people who were displaced from their homes could be forced into crowded alternatives, such as shelters.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to the nation’s public health,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement issued when the moratorium was extended. “Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings—like homeless shelters—by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

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