Judge: CDC exceeded authority in issuing eviction moratorium

CLEVELAND (AP) — A federal judge in Ohio has ruled that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lacked the authority to issue a nationwide moratorium on rental evictions, the second such ruling issued by a federal judge in two weeks.

U.S. District Judge J. Philip Calabrese, sitting in Cleveland, ruled Wednesday that the CDC went beyond what the federal Public Health Service Act allows it to do in ordering a halt to evictions. However, he did not grant an injunction that would have stopped the agency from enforcing the moratorium.

The ruling comes two weeks after U.S. District Judge J. Campbell Barker in the Eastern District of Texas determined that the moratorium was unconstitutional. The Justice Department is appealing that order.

The National Association of Homebuilders and a group of property owners from across northern Ohio had filed a federal lawsuit last October, claiming the CDC’s order was overreaching and arbitrary.

The chair of the NAHB said the group was pleased with the judge’s ruling.

“Saddling landlords with the responsibility to provide free rent during this pandemic ignores their financial obligations and ability to provide safe, decent and affordable housing,” Chuck Fowke said in a statement. “Even during emergencies, federal agencies must abide by the law.”

The suit was one of several filed in federal courts across the country by property owners who have struggled financially because of the coronavirus. Other courts around the country have upheld the eviction ban, said Diane Yentel, president of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. She added that challenges to the moratorium made little sense when tens of billions of dollars in federal rental assistance are coming in the recently passed coronavirus relief bill.

“These attempts to overturn the moratorium are frivolous,” Yentel said. “These landlords that are bringing these suits and working so hard to overturn the eviction moratorium will be made whole by the unprecedented amount of resources that Congress has made available. But it is going to take time to get the money into their hands.”

The CDC eviction moratorium was signed in September by President Donald Trump and extended by President Joe Biden through March 31.

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