Politics

Federal Judge Strikes Down Moratorium on Evicting Renters

Owners of residential apartment buildings have long argued that the moratorium is based on legally shaky ground, and questioned the constitutionality of tethering a major intervention in the nation’s housing market to a federal statute intended to stop the transmission of disease.

The ruling “further demonstrates the unlawful nature of this policy and reinforces just how far the C.D.C. overstepped their authority,” said Robert Pinnegar, president of the National Apartment Association, a trade association representing large landlords, which has also pushed for an end to the moratorium.

“The government must end enforcement of the C.D.C. order and begin communications now to stakeholders, including judges, to prepare them for its ending,” he said.

The moratorium covers tens of millions of Americans, in a range of income levels.

The executive order signed by Mr. Trump covers any single renter making below $99,000 a year and families making twice that much. About 8.2 million tenants reported that they had fallen behind in their rent during the pandemic, according to the Census Bureau.

Enforcement of the moratorium has always been an uncertain, even chaotic, proposition, left to the discretion of state-level housing court judges.

Those judges make determinations based on a variety of criteria, not only the federal moratorium, including local eviction regulations and subjective factors such as a tenants’ payment history and a landlord’s record of making repairs.

Federal decisions, like the one issued Wednesday, are significant but serve as guidance rather than an order — although an unequivocal ruling from a prominent federal court is likely to sway some local judges, said Eric Dunn, director of litigation for the National Housing Law Project, a tenant advocacy group.

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