Landlord groups are calling the Supreme Court’s move this week in their challenge of the federal government’s evictions moratorium a “victory,” saying the majority of the justices recognized that the government exceeded its authority during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, five of the nine justices voted to leave the evictions moratorium in place until July 31. But Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who voted with the majority, said he thought the government had reached too far.
“This is a massive victory for property rights,” said Charlie Oppler, president of the National Association of Realtors, which supported the high court legal battle.
Mom-and-pop property owners have faced financial ruin for about a year because they are unable to remove tenants who can’t pay rent, according to Mr. Oppler.
“With the pandemic waning and the economy improving, it is time to restore the housing sector to its healthy, former function. Property owners also deserved this absolute clarity from our federal court system regarding property rights in America to avoid similar financial harm in the future,” he said. “This ruling keeps in place certainty for tenants for another month while bringing clarity to struggling housing providers.”
In an order Tuesday night, Justice Kavanaugh said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would need congressional authority to extend its eviction moratorium beyond July 31.
He said he did not move to strike down the moratorium immediately because “those few weeks will allow for additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds.”
Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil M. Gorsuch, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas would have voted to strike down the evictions ban immediately.
A spokesperson from the Justice Department said they won’t comment on the court’s action.
The CDC had extended the eviction moratorium for another 30 days just last week. It was scheduled to expire June 30, but will now run through July 31.
Landlord groups had asked the high court to block the evictions moratorium after a three-judge panel refused to end the evictions ban earlier this month.
The moratorium prevents landlords from evicting tenants while the order is enforced, so landlords are unable to remove a renter who can’t pay rent.
The moratorium was first issued in September under former President Donald Trump, but the government has continued to renew it during the following eight months, even after vaccines have been widely distributed.
Property owners across the country, including mom-and-pop operators, have been asking the nation’s courts why landlords are expected to take a financial hit while non-paying tenants are protected by eviction moratoriums.
Lawsuits challenging the government’s eviction moratorium have been piling up, with some district courts delivering wins for the landlords while others have ruled for the government.
Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit invalidated the government’s moratorium but did not issue a nationwide injunction. The U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia also upheld the evictions moratorium, refusing to grant an injunction.