U.S. appeals court leaves CDC residential eviction ban in place

FILE PHOTO: A "For Rent" sign outside a residential home in Carlsbad

By Michelle Conlin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Wednesday refused to overturn the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) national ban on residential evictions.

In a blow to landlords, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said it would not lift a stay of a lower court ruling that had declared the eviction ban unlawful.

In language suggesting that the government’s eviction ban was lawful, the panel said the government "has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits" of its appeal. The moratorium, which is set to expire on June 30, covers renters whose incomes were hit by COVID-19.

Ever since the CDC implemented the eviction ban in September, landlord groups, arguing that they are on the brink of financial collapse after going months without being paid, have filed challenges in courts across the country, with mixed results.

Legal experts said that Wednesday's ruling means that for now, the eviction ban will remain in effect until its planned expiration date on June 30, though other court challenges are pending.

For low-income housing advocates, "This is a sigh of relief," said Eric Dunn, director of litigation for the National Housing Law Project.

As the coronavirus pandemic moves into its second year, an estimated 7 million renters across the country owe $40 billion in back rent, utilities and fees, Moody’s Analytics estimates. This is more than twice the number of homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure in the 2008 financial crisis.

Many eviction cases are pending, and some tenants may receive a lifeline from the $50 billion in rent relief approved by Congress, even though so far that aid has been slow to trickle out.

"If the CDC eviction moratorium expires or is overturned before those funds are expended, millions of renters would be at immediate risk of losing their homes. The result would be a historic wave of evictions, with tremendous, harmful consequences to individuals, communities, and our nation’s public health," said Diane Yentel, president of the Low Income Housing Coalition.

Landlords and real estate groups that challenged the moratorium in court said the CDC lacked the power to impose it, and unlawfully took away their right to deal with delinquent tenants.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)