“If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it.” Alabama Association of Realtors et al., v. Department of Health and Human Services, et al., 594 U.S. _(2021) (slip op., at 8). In Alabama Association of Realtors, the US Supreme Court affirmed the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s decision vacating the moratorium on the ground that it was unlawful. In March 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to alleviate the burdens caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, including a 120 day eviction moratorium for properties that participated in federal assistance programs or were subject to federally backed loans. When the eviction moratorium expired in July, Congress did not renew it; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) stepped in to take action when Congress did not. Relying on § 361(a) of the Public Health Service Act, which provides in part that the Surgeon General may provide for inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, destruction of animals or articles found to be so infected, the CDC extended and expanded the moratorium to include all residential properties nationwide while imposing criminal penalties on violators. The CDC’s moratorium was set to expire on December 31, 2020; however, the CDC extended it various times.
In affirming the lower court’s decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that the CDC lacked authority to impose this type of eviction moratorium and further found that this type of moratorium intrudes into an area that is governed by state law: the landlord-tenant relationship. “Precedents require Congress to enact exceedingly clear language if it wishes significantly alter the balance between federal and state power and the power of the Government over private property.” Id citing US Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Assn., 590 US _(2020)(slip op., at 15-16). Ultimately, the US Supreme Court acknowledged that although it is undisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of Covid-19 and the Delta variant, our legal system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully or step into the shoes of Congress. It is unclear whether Congress will take any action, but as it stands there is no longer any type of moratorium precluding the eviction of tenants that fail to pay rent or fail to abide by their contractual obligations with their landlords.