A Federal District Judge in the District of Columbia has vacated the CDC’s national residential eviction moratorium. While some other courts have also upheld challenges to the CDC’s moratorium, the rulings have typically been limited to benefit the plaintiffs who brought the challenges. In this case, however, the Judge set aside the order, rendering it entirely unenforceable.
In March of 2020, then-President Donald Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency. He subsequently signed the CARES Act into law, which included a 120-day moratorium on residential evictions that applied to properties that participated in federal assistance programs or were subject to federally-backed loans. Under the purported authority of the Public Health Service Act, the CDC then issued its own Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19 (the National Moratorium). But unlike the CARES Act’s moratorium, which was limited to federally-backed properties, the National Moratorium applied to all residential rental properties in the United States. The National Moratorium was scheduled to expire several times, but was most recently extended by the CDC until June 30, 2021.
But in response to a challenge brought by a handful of commercial developers and owners of multi-family residential properties, a Federal District Court for the District of Columbia considered whether the CDC actually had the authority under the Public Health Service Act to enact the National Moratorium. The Court ultimately answered its own question: “Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not.”
During the pendency of the National Moratorium, it was typical that eviction judges would hear proceedings until the conclusion, but would then stop short of entering an enforceable order of possession because of the National Moratorium. As a result of the Court’s ruling, any multi-family or other residential property owner or manager who has pursued eviction proceedings, but had those proceedings stayed by the eviction court because of the National Moratorium, might be in a position to apply to the court to immediately move forward with eviction proceedings. However, numerous state and local jurisdictions have also imposed eviction moratoriums, which may not be affected by Court’s decision and so may continue to impose a moratorium on eviction proceedings. Residential landlords should be sure they understand local restrictions on evictions before moving forward.