Supreme Court ends Eviction Moratorium
August 30, 2021
By Nathaniel C. Hunter, Esquire
On August 26, 2021, the United States Supreme Court vacated the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s stay of its Order in favor of the Alabama Association of Realtors, among others, thereby negating the Centers for Disease Control’s temporary Eviction Moratorium and allowing landlords to proceed with evictions of non-paying tenants.
A 120-day eviction moratorium was part of the CARES Act, applying to properties that participated in federal assistance programs or subject to federally-backed loans. When it expired, Congress did not renew it, but the CDC imposed a moratorium that expanded its reach to all residential properties in high transmission counties and criminal penalties on violators. This moratorium has been extended multiple times, with the most recent iteration set to expire on October 3, 2021.
In Alabama Assoc. of Realtors v. Department of Health and Human Services, the Court ruled that the CDC had overstepped its authority. Much of the case relied on the interpretation of §361(a) of the Public Health Service Act, which reads:
“The Surgeon General, with the approval of the [Secretary of Health and Human Services], is authorized to make and enforce such regulations as in his judgment are necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the States or possessions, or from one State or possession into any other State or possession. For purposes of carrying out and enforcing such regulations, the Surgeon General may provide for such inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, destruction of animals or articles found to be so infected or contaminated as to be sources of dangerous infection to human beings, and other measures, as in his judgment may be necessary.”
The Majority opinion found that the measures the CDC imposed – including a sweeping moratorium and criminal penalties – were well beyond the scope of what was outlined in the Act. The opinion also stated that “If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it.”
Congress has approved nearly $50 billion to help people pay back rent and avoid eviction. According the PA Department of Human Services, Pennsylvania received approximately $569 million to administer assistance to renters, landlords, and utility providers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic insecurity. The Post-Gazette reports, “Allegheny County was allocated $80 million for the most recent round of federal funding and had distributed $26.4 million as of Aug. 24. The county has received more than 13,900 applications for rental assistance, according to data from the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.” Only 34% of applicants have received payment to date.