The Supreme Court delivered a lethal blow to the Center for Disease Control’s eviction moratorium in a 6-3 decision issued on August 26, 2021. The decision appears to have ended a long series of national political and legal battles that affected tenants and landlords across the country.
Alabama Association of Realtors, et al v. Department of Health and Human Services, et al
began when the Alabama Association of Realtors, plaintiff, challenged the CDC’s eviction moratoriums, arguing that the CDC exceeded its authority. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that the CDC exceeded its authority under 42 U.S.C. §264(a). Plaintiff argued, and the Court accepted, that the regulations relying on §241(a) have historically been limited to quarantining infected individuals and prohibiting the sale of animals known to transmit disease. In other words, the law on which the CDC bases the eviction moratorium was never intended to give the CDC the sweeping authority to prohibit evictions nationwide.
The Supreme Court first ruled on the matter in July 2021 when it held that the CDC exceeded their authority – however, the Court declined to vacate a stay on the grounds that the moratorium would expire July 31, 2021. The ruling effectively kept the moratorium on life support until July 31, 2021. The CDC reimposed a slightly restricted version of the moratorium in early August 2021. Plaintiff went back to court again to challenge the new/modified moratorium. The Supreme Court quickly got a second bite at the apple.
This time the Supreme Court vacated the stay – effectively blocking the latest eviction moratorium. In strong language, the Court declared that the CDC exceeded its authority and that a new eviction moratorium must come from Congress:
It would be one thing if Congress had specifically authorized the action that the CDC has taken. But that has not happened. Instead, the CDC has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in reliance on a decades-old statute that authorizes it to implement measures like fumigation and pest extermination. It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts.
The opinion leaves open the prospect of an eviction moratorium created by Congress which will certainly create plenty of political fodder for both major parties in the future. The entire opinion can be read here.