In what appears to be a second defeat for the Biden Administration shortly after the Supreme Court reinstated the Trump-era “Remain-in-Mexico” policy within the same week, the Supreme Court struck down further extension of the eviction moratorium instilled by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention on Thursday.
In a stunning slam to both the Biden administration and the CDC, the Supreme Court agreed to allow evictions to take place in a stronghold win for property owners and landlords that sought reparations for past due rent that millions of tenants have not paid since the beginning of last year. The Alabama Association of Realtors had been the overall leading defendant on these controversial high court cases.
In a per curium 6-3 decision from the mostly conservative court, the Justices ruled that the CDC was exceeding its constitutional authority implementing a moratorium in the first place, indicating that Congress ultimately holds the power to change course via additional legislation.
“If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it,” the Supreme Court opinion stated. “It is indisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant. But our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends.”
The justices said the issue would be different if Congress had specifically authorized the action by passing more legislation towards the issue at hand, and not the CDC.
Additionally, the court ruled that the CDC and the executive branch had over three months to prepare and ensure financial assistance would be properly allocated and distributed to all those that needed it most, but they failed to do so, which constituted a “decrease in interest” on behalf of the government while the harm to the Realtors had “increased.”
“The moratorium has put the applicants, along with millions of landlords across the country, at risk of irreparable harm by depriving them of rent payments with no guarantee of eventual recovery. Despite the CDC’s determination that landlords should bear a significant financial cost of the pandemic, many landlords have modest means,” the Court stated. “And preventing them from evicting tenants who breach their leases intrudes on one of the most fundamental elements of property ownership—the right to exclude,” the court explained regarding landlords and property rights.
Interestingly, the CDC sought to keep in full force the capacity to implement eviction moratoriums on a feeble legal ground that is decades-old, which permits them to implement smaller-scale measures, such as fumigation and pest extermination. Nowhere in that statute did it indicate ostensibly that the CDC held any constitutional right to implement larger-scale measures, such as moratorium evictions.
The only reason the eviction moratoriums remained in place until July 31 was due to the bureaucratic nature of when the case was last heard, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh concurring in a heated 5-4 decision since the hearing took place on June 29 and he believed the “imminent expiration” was going to take place anyway, which is what motivated him to let it stand temporarily.
Although Congress and the Biden administration approved nearly $46.5 billion in rental assistance, 89 percent of such approved aid has not yet been received by any of the tenants that have asked for financial assistance in paying rent since the beginning of the pandemic. Questionably, state and local governments have only been able to use up to 11 percent of the federal funds authorized as of July. An additional estimate by the National Low Income Housing Coalition indicates 15 states haven’t even managed to use 5 percent of that rental assistance.
If congress can put aside their typical polarized debates on the floor, they may be able to come to a consensus on ensuring that rental assistance is getting quicker to those in extreme financial distress, and especially those on the brink of eviction. If that happens, landlords and realtors would be less likely to evict their tenants as they would see money rolling back in. “It is up to congress, not the CDC, to decide whether the public interest merits further action here,” the Court rectified.