One year into the coronavirus pandemic, and the federal moratorium on evictions that was put into place weeks after the pandemic began continues to drag on. Originally extended through the end of 2020, then through January and most recently by the Biden administration through the end of March, there finally appears to be a glimmer of hope for property owners. A U.S. District Court judge in Texas recently ruled that the eviction moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is unconstitutional.
Chance Weldon is an attorney with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which brought the lawsuit against the moratorium on behalf of a Texas property owner. "It's very easy to demonize landlords and just dump all of the pandemic problems onto landlords," he tells KTRH. "But the reality of the situation is most of these landlords are operating on small margins."
Weldon points out that some owners of rental homes or property haven't received a penny of rent in a year now, and are struggling just as much as renters. "It's easy to paint this as people trying to throw people out into the streets, but that's not what this is about," he says. "This is about a federal agency telling landlords that they have to let people live on their property for free."
While the judge found the eviction moratorium unconstitutional, he did not issue a preliminary injunction, so the CDC continues to enforce the ban while the case is appealed. Weldon argues that flies in the face of legal precedent in rulings such as this. "The law is very clear---when an action is deemed unconstitutional, it's set aside for everyone," he says. "But the DOJ takes a contrary position."
Nevertheless, Weldon is confident the Texas court ruling will ultimately be upheld in the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. "The federal government has never asserted such a broad power over private property...they didn't do it in the Spanish flu epidemic, they didn't do it during the Great Depression," he says. "Their argument here is essentially a limitless view of federal power, which has been rejected by the Supreme Court on multiple occasions."