The US has appealed against a court decision declaring a moratorium on evictions unlawful, the justice department said at the weekend.
Brian Boynton, acting assistant US attorney general for the civil division, said the department disagrees with the February 25 decision by a Texas district court that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium exceeds the powers of Congress.
“The CDC’s eviction moratorium, which Congress extended last December, protects many renters who cannot make their monthly payments due to job loss or health care expenses,” Boynton said.
“By preventing people from becoming homeless or having to move into more crowded housing, the moratorium helps to slow the spread of Covid-19,” he added.
The Texas case was brought by Lauren Terkel, who inherited a rental property in Tyler, Texas, but was unable to evict a non-paying tenant because of the CDC Order.
The judge, while acknowledging that eviction moratoriums may be lawful as part of state laws managing eviction procedures generally and under states’ broad “police powers”, ruled that eviction moratoriums reflect a significant expansion of federal power.
“The court engaged in a detailed analysis of Congress’s power … to regulate interstate commerce, as well as other constitutional provisions, and concluded that the moratoriums exceeded the government’s authority,” said Harry Kelly, a partner with Nixon Peabody in Washington.
The decision, however, does not extend beyond Terkel v CDC, and it does not prohibit the application of the CDC’s eviction moratorium elsewhere. “For other landlords who rent to covered persons, the CDC’s eviction moratorium remains in effect,” said Boynton.