Return of the landlord

Supreme Court decision ends rent moratorium.


Landlords depending on rent payments began to suffer under the eviction suspension, so some of them took it to the courts.

Ella Whalen, Staff Writer

On August 26th, the Supreme Court has ruled in a 6-3 decision that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) does not have the authority to suspend evictions during a pandemic without Congressional approval.

Congress passed a relief program in March of 2020 that prevented evictions from properties who participated in federal assistance programs for 120 days. When this program expired, the CDC had decided to extend it without Congress’ approval to the end of the year. It also expanded to prevent tenants on any property regardless of status from being evicted. This extension was renewed through January by congress, and renewed several times further by the CDC, ultimately through July.

The CDC argued that a provision of the Public Health Service Act gave them the authority to suspend evictions, as it gave the Surgeon General the right to enforce regulations to prevent the spread of disease within the States as they see justified. However, the applicants, the Alabama Association of Realtors, et. al., argue that suspending evictions is too indirect to fall under said provision. The example regulations given in the provision, such as fumigation and sanitation, affect the disease itself, while suspending evictions only limits the movement of people.

They also argue that the CDC’s interpretation of said provision gives them too much power over economic or political affairs. The provision the CDC cites had previously been limited to quarantining people or preventing the sale of infected animals, and while written ambiguously, was not intended for such sweeping power.

Chief Justice Roberts along with Justices Kavanaugh,  Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Barrett sided with the realtor’s association. Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissented, saying that the cited provision would have stated limits on its usage, and that more harm would be caused by lifting the eviction moratorium.

While it appears that the federal government has no interest in continuing the moratorium, it has been offering increased renter’s assistance since the rise of the Delta variant of COVID-19. For students or their parents who have been struggling to pay rent during this pandemic, this will hopefully give enough time to prepare for evictions to resume.