Federal Judge Leaves Eviction Moratorium in Place for Now

Federal Judge Leaves Eviction Moratorium in Place for Now a gloved hand knocks on a door Maricopa County constable Lenny McCloskey knocks on an apartment door before evicting tenants for non-payment of rent on Oct. 6, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (John Moore/Getty Images)

By Charles Kim | Saturday, 15 May 2021 10:31 AM

A federal judge has stayed her previous ruling that would have ended a federal moratorium on evictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, The Hill reported Friday.

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich on Friday placed a stay on her May 5 ruling that would have ended a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention federal eviction freeze due to the pandemic, giving renters behind on payments a brief respite.

“Without this stay, millions of families would be thrown into a spiral of irreparable and devastating harm, COVID-19 rates would spike, and policy interventions, like rental assistance, would be rendered worthless,” Emily Benfer, a law professor at Wake Forest University told The Hill. “That eviction avalanche is still on the horizon but, for today, the public health is better protected."

The initial CDC eviction freeze began under the Trump administration last year and was updated through June 30 under the Biden administration last month.

In the April 1 update, the CDC said that allowing evictions during the pandemic could cause further outbreaks of the virus as people move into closer quarters after being evicted and potentially becoming homeless, according to the CDC document.

The CDC order establishes penalties of up to $250,000 and a year in jail for those landlords that disregard the moratorium.

In her May 5 ruling, Judge Friedrich said the CDC “exceeded its authority” in ordering the freeze, which is expected to cause about $20 billion in lost revenue to landlords during the period.

Despite that ruling, the judge said Friday that the CDC had met its burden of proving substantial harm to renters and met its responsibility to look out for the health and welfare of citizens in requesting the stay.

“(Issuing a stay) will no doubt result in continued financial losses to landlords,” Friedrich said in her latest ruling Friday. “But the magnitude of these additional financial losses is outweighed by the Department’s weighty interest in protecting the public.”

Landlords hold a small advantage in lower court case decisions nationwide, The Hill reported.

Even though the ban on evictions remains in place now, the Judge’s decision does not absolve renters from paying any of the money owed once the ban is lifted.

Renters will eventually have to pay the back rent due in most cases.

The stay will remain in effect until the Biden administration’s appeal of the May 5 order is heard.