Landlords Denied Injunction Against CDC Eviction Moratorium

A federal judge ruled against landlord groups who were seeking to block the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s national moratorium on evictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee in Atlanta on Thursday rejected a motion for a preliminary injunction brought by a nonprofit called the New Civil Liberties Alliance on behalf of a Virginia landlord. The group was joined by the National Apartment Association, which represents some 85,000 landlords responsible for 10 million rental units.

The judge said the public interest in controlling the spread of COVID-19 outweighed the landlords’ economic interest, saying their “economic harm pales in comparison to the significant loss of lives” that could occur if the order was blocked.

Courts across the U.S. “have routinely concluded that undoing orders deemed necessary by public health officials and experts to contain a contagious and fast-spreading disease would result in comparatively more severe injury to the community,” Boulee said.

The CDC’s four-month national moratorium, announced in September, applies to any tenant who can’t make rent due to economic conditions and who presents a written declaration about their circumstances to their landlord. A previous moratorium authorized by Congress as part of its coronavirus relief package expired in July.

Neither the New Civil Liberties Alliance nor the National Apartment Association immediately responded to requests for comment. Their lawsuit was one of the first legal challenges to the order and could have opened the door for landlords across the nation to pursue evictions before the moratorium expires.

The landlords had argued that the CDC lacked the constitutional authority to enact a policy affecting rents. Boulee disagreed, saying that the agency has demonstrated that the measure is needed to prevent the reach of the virus. He also noted that the landlords are only delayed from proceeding with evictions and can seek remedies such as late fees and interest.

“Simply put, the CDC has shown what it needs to: that an eviction moratorium for individuals likely to be forced into congregate living situations is an effective public health measure that prevents the spread of communicable diseases because it aids the implementation of stay-at home and social distancing directives,” Boulee said. “It is not this court’s job to render a judgment that the CDC should have taken some other public measure.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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