Federal ban on eviction survives another day

A judge ruled Friday that the latest eviction moratorium is likely illegal, but that a higher court will ultimately decide whether it can continue.

A federal judge on Friday refused to stop the Biden administration’s most recent eviction ban, despite the judge also paving the way for further legal battles when she pointed out that the ban is ultimately illegal.

The ruling has to do with an eviction moratorium announced by the Biden government in early August. The aim of the moratorium was to help tenants who were unable to pay rent due to the coronavirus pandemic and followed a previous moratorium that started in 2020 and was eventually extended to the end of July.

However, the legality of such moratoriums has been questioned throughout the pandemic, and on Friday, U.S. District Court judge Dabney Friedrich ruled that the current eviction ban is essentially similar to the previous one – which she declared illegal in May.

But despite finding the current ban to be unlawful, the judge also said she couldn’t really end it based on an earlier higher court ruling.

“The court’s hands are tied,” wrote the judge, but also noted that without the decision of the higher court she would “evacuate” – that is, would lift the eviction ban.

The result of all of this is that the case is now in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Although the eviction ban affects tenants and real estate professionals in the United States, the case is being specifically pursued by real estate agents and landlords in Alabama. These plaintiffs are expected to take the case to the US Supreme Court, according to the Associated Press, which was among the earliest news outlets to cover Friday’s ruling.

The verdict comes the same day the U.S. Supreme Court issued an emergency ordinance blocking a New York state pandemic law created to protect tenants from eviction. The order targets the portion of New York law that allowed tenants to self-certify that they are in dire financial straits as a result of COVID-19. The court argued for the unconstitutionality of the law that landlords had no way of effectively contesting such claims by a tenant.

Both cases illustrate the ongoing economic turmoil that the coronavirus has brought to the housing market. In response, throughout the crisis, policymakers have sought lifelines through eviction moratoriums and mortgage forbearance programs, among other things, though such efforts have inevitably opened a Pandora’s box of competing regulations and lawsuits.

At the beginning of August, real estate professionals also resisted the new eviction ban and said, among other things, that it would have a negative impact on smaller temporary renters and ultimately burden tenants with debt.

The most recent ban has also faced concerns from the outset that it might eventually run into legal hurdles. In fact, instead of simply extending the existing moratorium, the Biden administration issued a new moratorium because this strategy was seen as potentially more legally promising.

However, Friday’s ruling that both the former and current moratoriums were essentially the same suggests that the Biden administration’s strategy may not ultimately prevail.

Read Friday’s verdict here:

Email to Jim Dalrymple II

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