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Realtor Groups File Emergency Motion to Stop Eviction Ban

The Supreme Court agreed the original eviction ban was unconstitutional in a suit filed by two Realtor associations. On Wed., they asked a District Court to rule against the latest ban, even as a push is on to get more money to landlords. In Fla., only 2% of $870M the state received so far has been distributed.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The nationwide eviction ban authorized by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) expired on July 31 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional. However, on Aug. 3, the CDC issued a new order banning evictions – through Oct 3, 2021 – in areas considered high risk for pandemic spread.

On Aug. 4, the Alabama and Georgia associations of Realtors®, working with the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), filed an emergency motion with Judge Dabney Friedrich of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. They asked the court to enforce the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent order in relation to the eviction ban. In the court’s original ruling, which originated in Friedrich’s court before moving upward on appeal, the justices said that the CDC couldn’t unilaterally extend the moratorium after July 31 – it needed new legislation from Congress to do so.

Case history

The state associations, with NAR’s help, first filed a lawsuit in the fall of 2020, challenging the CDC’s authority to impose a blanket ban on evictions. Friedrich ruled in the associations’ favor but put her ruling on hold pending an ongoing appeal, which kept the moratorium in place.

Housing providers then asked the D.C Circuit Court to lift the stay, which was denied. They then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and end the ban immediately.

On June 29, a majority of the Supreme Court justices indicated that they agreed – that the CDC lacked authority to implement a national eviction moratorium. But the high court also allowed the ban to expire at the end of July.

New ban vs. old ban

The new Aug. 3 order subtly changes some of the ground rules. Rather than a blanket ban that covers all U.S. housing, it impacts only areas with a “substantial” or “high” level of pandemic spread. However, that covers about 90% of all U.S. rentals, and essentially 100% of Florida rentals.

According to the CDC’s tracking map, every Florida county is considered high risk at the moment, except for Glades County, where the risk is one step down at “substantial.” CDC says it updates the map as local cases increase or decrease.

Since the new order differs in some ways from the one considered by the D.C. Circuit Court and the Supreme Court, it raises new legal questions – specifically whether the old rulings still apply after the CDC’s changes. Only the courts will be able to offer a final answer to that question, and additional legal challenges are expected.

Even President Biden admitted that the new “call for a moratorium based on the Supreme Court’s recent decision is likely to face obstacles.” He says he told the CDC to “look at other alternatives than the one that is in existence, which the [Supreme] Court has declared they’re not going to allow to continue.”

Push to get more money to landlords

While NAR has been actively trying to end the ban and advocating for property owners and landlords who have also been hurt by pandemic actions, it agrees with housing advocates that money authorized by federal relief laws needs to get into the hands of landlords.

“About half of all housing providers are mom-and-pop operators, and without rental income, they cannot pay their own bills or maintain their properties,” says NAR President Charlie Oppler. “NAR has always advocated the best solution for all parties was rental assistance paid directly to housing providers to cover the rent and utilities of any vulnerable tenants during the pandemic. No housing provider wants to evict a tenant and considers it only as a last resort.”

NAR policy analysts say they’re assessing the latest order and its impact on small housing providers. They’re also exploring all legal options.

Florida money for landlords

Florida has received more than $870 million so far for rent relief but has distributed only about 2% of that money as of last week, according to the Tampa Bay Times. More money is also projected to come in, with total funding expected to be more than $1.56 billion.

The statewide distribution point for Florida landlords and tenants is OurFlorida.com. However, many local governments are also distributing federal reimbursement funds, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a web tool to help renters and landlords find other nearby sources that can help. It’s online at consumerfinance.gov/renthelp. (Choose “Florida” from the website’s dropdown box.)

© 2021 Florida Realtors®

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