Court Battles

Landlord group asks Supreme Court to strike down eviction freeze

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A group of landlords on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to end a nationwide freeze on evictions so that property owners can proceed with removing financially distressed renters from their homes.

The emergency request comes a day after a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., rebuffed the group’s bid to nullify the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium. 

Led by the Alabama Association of Realtors, the group asked Chief Justice John Roberts to reinstate a lower court ruling that found public health officials had overstepped their authority in halting evictions across the U.S.

“Landlords have been losing over $13 billion every month under the moratorium, and the total effect of the CDC’s overreach may reach up to $200 billion if it remains in effect for a year,” read the brief filed to Roberts, who handles emergency requests related to D.C.-based litigation.

The CDC order, which is set to expire at the end of June, aims to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus by helping cash-strapped tenants remain in their homes. Renters seeking protection must declare under penalty of perjury that they would face overcrowded conditions if evicted and that they have made their best effort to pay rent.

Legal challenges to the policy have played out as corporate landlords filed more than 56,000 eviction actions since the eviction pause took effect last September, and as federal rental aid continues to make its way to needy tenants. On balance, landlords hold a slight advantage in their win-loss record in court against the federal government.

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The challenge brought by the Alabama Association of Realtors and its co-plaintiffs has produced a mixed result over the past several weeks. 

The landlord group secured a legal victory last month when U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich struck down the moratorium as a government overreach. But Friedrich, a Trump appointee, agreed to stay her ruling, preventing it from taking effect while the Biden administration appeals.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday denied the group’s request to have the stay lifted, prompting the landlords’ emergency request on Thursday to the Supreme Court.

In its brief to the chief justice, the landlord group urged the court to take up the matter in part to resolve the patchwork of legal rulings on the moratorium’s lawfulness that has emerged in various parts of the country. 

“Especially given that landlords are now subject to different requirements — and federal criminal penalties — depending on where they live, the Court should resolve whether the CDC’s moratorium is unlawful,” they wrote.

Tags CDC eviction moratorium

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