The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on evictions has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in Texas, paving the way for evictions in the state to resume.
The ruling could also set a legal precedent and have a sweeping effect on housing providers across the U.S., ABC News reported. Under the moratorium, which was just extended by President Joe Biden through March, housing providers are not legally able to evict tenants that can prove financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge John Campbell Baker sided with a group of landlords and property managers who filed a lawsuit against the CDC, arguing that the agency had overstepped its authority through the eviction ban.
“The federal government cannot say that it has ever before invoked its power over interstate commerce to impose a residential eviction moratorium,” Baker said in his decision. “The federal government has not claimed such a power at any point during our nation’s history until last year. … Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution.”
The judge is yet to issue an injunction that strikes down the moratorium, but he hinted that one could come soon. If he does, it would mean evictions in Texas would be able to proceed immediately. The CDC has not yet commented publicly on the Texas federal judge’s ruling.
The moratorium was imposed in order to protect tenants who have lost their jobs or suffered other financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, housing providers say the moratorium has unfairly impacted them, leaving them to struggle with numerous nonpaying tenants, even though they must continue to pay mortgages on the housing they provide.
Emily Benfer, a visiting professor of law at Wake Forest University who is a proponent of the moratorium, told CNBC that it is a “critical pandemic mitigation measure” that is helping to protect the health and safety of communities by preventing further spread of the COVID-19 virus through eviction.
Previous challenges to the eviction moratorium were made in Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee, but CNBC reported that these were all unsuccessful.