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Federal judge says eviction ban unconstitutional; renters caught in the middle

Posted at 7:19 PM, Feb 26, 2021

The federal ban on evictions is unconstitutional according to a ruling issued by a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, on Thursday.

The moratorium, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bans evictions for non-payment for COVID-19 affected households.

Diane Yentel, the president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which advocates on behalf of renters, says the protections are still in place despite the ruling but the country is in uncharted territory. Two similar lawsuits that challenge the moratorium had been struck down earlier in the pandemic.

“We’ve never in the history of our country, had the federal government implement such a broad eviction moratorium. So we knew that it would play out in the courts. And that's what's happening now,” Yentel told ABC15.

In Arizona, 161,521 renters are behind in rental payments according to the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey for February 3-15.

Officials with the Maricopa County Justice Courts said the decision will not influence eviction case procedures until all appeals have been exhausted or the plaintiffs push for an injunction for enforcement.

Yentel said the Coalition will, “continue to urge President Biden to and his full administration to vigorously defend the CDC eviction moratorium in the courts to ensure that it continues.”

The injunction is an option the judge specifically mentioned in his ruling.

“In fact, he (the judge) invited from the landlord plaintiffs for requests to issue an injunction if the federal government doesn't revoke its own order,” Yentel said.

In the meantime, renters are urged to:

  • Be able to show a judge you have been acting in good faith
  • Make sure to apply for all rental assistance
  • Stay in contact with the landlord about your situation and,
  • Submit a CDC affidavit to the landlord if you qualify

Protections for renters will continue for now but it is unclear how long that will last.

“I wish I could assure them that their housing is safe for the duration of the pandemic, I can't,” Yentel said.

Cities, counties, and the Arizona Department of Economic Security will soon begin accepting applications for new rental and utility assistance funds released by the U.S. Treasury Department for COVID-19 related hardships. Find out where you can apply here: https://des.az.gov/ERAP