In spite of a recent Supreme Court ruling, the Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday issued new limits on evictions for non-payment of rent or mortgage through October 3, 2021. The measure is virtually certain to be met with legal challenges.
The eviction limits will apply in counties experiencing “substantial and high levels” of community transmission of the coronavirus, per the CDC order. The protections are means tested by income, rather than applying universally.
In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, President Joe Biden said the measure would apply to areas where about 90% of the U.S. population lives.
To be covered, a tenant must be unable to make housing payments because of a loss of income, and must make no more than $99,000 annually, or $198,000 in the case of joint filers. The person must have made their best effort to receive government assistance and make timely, partial housing payments. The person must also not have any other housing options, were they to be evicted.
To access the protections, tenants can fill out a declaration form and provide it to their landlord. If a tenant has already submitted a declaration form under the previous CDC eviction order, they do not need to fill out an additional one. The form does not preclude the landlord from challenging the truthfulness of the declaration in court, however.
The CDC’s announcement comes just days after the CDC’s initial ban on evictions lapsed. Biden had asked Congress to pass legislation to enact a ban on evictions, since a June Supreme Court ruling cast doubt on the legality of further extending the CDC’s initial eviction limits.
“Whether that option will pass constitutional muster with this administration, I can’t tell you. I don’t know,” Biden told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “There are a few scholars have said it will, others say it’s not likely to. But at a minimum, by the time it’s litigated it will give additional time while we’re getting $45 billion out to people who are behind on rent and don’t have money.”
In June, industry stakeholders urged the Biden administration to allow the CDC’s initial eviction order to lapse at the end of July as planned. That request, however, did not prove as compelling as mounting pressure to backstop renters while the Delta variant surges in parts of the country.
But Congress was ultimately unable to pass legislation to place a moratorium on evictions. Members of the House of Representatives balked at curtailing their August recess. Meanwhile, a measure to take up the issue failed to gain steam in the Senate.
In a statement, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer credited progressive Democratic legislators, including Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with pushing the Biden administration to take action.
The public health agency said the new limits on evictions will allow additional time for rent relief to reach renters and to further increase vaccination rates.
“In the context of a pandemic, eviction moratoria—like quarantine, isolation, and social distancing—can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease,” the CDC said in a statement.
In a statement, the director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said that the moratorium would help keep people out of congregate settings where Covid-19 spreads.
“It is imperative that public health authorities act quickly to mitigate such an increase of evictions, which could increase the likelihood of new spikes in SARS-CoV-2 transmission,” Walensky said. “Such mass evictions and the attendant public health consequences would be very difficult to reverse.”
David Howard, executive director of the National Rental Home Council, which represents single-family rental landlords, said the measure contributed to uncertainty for both renters and rental property owners. Howard said that rental property owners have lost “billions of dollars they will never recover.”
“After a nearly year-long nationwide moratorium, the federal government went from full-time landlord to part-time landlord to now something in between over a span of just three days,” Howard said.
“Shame on me for assuming the moratorium would not be extended after the President announced he has no legal authority to do so nor was Congress able to pass legislation to do so.”