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SCOTUS Strikes Down Federal Moratorium on Evictions

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Monday August 30, 2021
SCOTUS Strikes Down Federal Moratorium on Evictions

On Thursday, August 26, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) struck down the Biden Administration’s most recent COVID-19-eviction moratorium. SCOTUS’ decision only impacted the federal eviction moratorium, leaving in place eviction bans enacted at the state level in states like California and New York. Notwithstanding the fact that California’s eviction moratorium remains in place, it is important to understand SCOTUS’ position on the matter.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has consistently renewed their eviction moratorium, in the face of the onslaught of COVID infections, while state and local governments attempted to disburse the $47B in rental assistance that was approved by Congress (as of July 31, 2021, only $4.7B had been distributed). SCOTUS ruled that the CDC did not have the legal authority to force landlords to shoulder the cost of the pandemic.

It should be noted that SCOTUS acknowledged that Congress may have the authority to impose an eviction moratorium, but the CDC’s authority is limited to decisions that are necessary to prevent the “introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases.” The Court concluded that if the eviction moratorium fell within that language, there would be very little, if anything, that the CDC could not do in an effort to combat COVID-19.

SCOTUS’ liberal bloc dissented on the grounds that federal law gave the CDC even more extreme powers, such as quarantines. They further noted that the burden landlords were facing would be mitigated by the remaining $42B in rental assistance that hadn’t been disbursed.

It should be noted that SCOTUS’ decision is not surprising, as it expressed severe discomfort with the previous moratorium; Justice Kavanaugh, in a concurrence, flatly stated that he believed the moratorium exceeded the CDC’s authority but voted to allow the previous moratorium to avoid disruption while the rental assistance issue was addressed. Justice Kavanaugh explicitly stated that he believed any further moratorium would need to be approved by Congress, rather than the CDC.

At the end of the day, California’s eviction moratorium remains in place, but it is possible that arguments similar to those that swayed SCOTUS would sway the California Supreme Court.

At the Chernov Team we understand that knowledge is power, and knowledge of how the legal system is approaching issues in the housing market is powerful knowledge indeed. At the Chernov Team we know that whoever comes to the table most prepared leaves with the most, and the Chernov Team always leaves the table with the most.

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