The Supreme Court late Thursday ruled against the national eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying the health agency exceeded its authority in issuing the ban.
The moratorium was originally put in place by Congress last year, but that elapsed in July. Then-President Donald Trump then tapped the CDC in September to prohibit evictions. The agency extended the ban in March and again in June, with the White House vowing not to extend again when it expired on July 31.
The CDC later issued a narrower, more targeted eviction ban.
“If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it,” the high court said in its ruling, with its three liberal judges dissenting.
In its opinion on Thursday, the court said the government has had three months since the district court ruling to distribute rental assistance funds, and in that time, the harm to realtors has increased while the interests of the government have decreased.
“Whatever interest the government had in maintaining the moratorium’s original end date to ensure the orderly administration of those programs has since diminished,” it wrote. “And Congress was on notice that a further extension would almost surely require new legislation, yet it failed to act in the several weeks leading up to the moratorium’s expiration.”
The justices said the issue would be different if Congress had specifically authorized the action and not the CDC.
“It is indisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant,” the justices said, referring to the highly contagious strain of the coronavirus spreading throughout the country. “But our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends.”
The White House late Thursday said it was “disappointed” in the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“As a result of this ruling, families will face the painful impact of evictions, and communities across the country will face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
“In light of the Supreme Court ruling and the continued risk of COVID-19 transmission, President [Joe] Biden is once again calling on all entities that can prevent evictions — from cities and states to local courts, landlords, cabinet agencies — to urgently act to prevent evictions.”