- A federal judge in Texas ruled that the national ban on evictions is unconstitutional.
- Advocates warn of a spike in evictions.
A federal judge in Texas ruled on Thursday evening that the national ban on evictions that’s been in place since September is unconstitutional.
“Although the Covid-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution,” U.S. District Judge John Barker wrote, siding with a group of property managers who argued that the ban exceeds the power of the federal government.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national eviction moratorium was first announced under former President Donald Trump in September 2020. It prohibited evicting renters who were financially struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic.
President Joe Biden has since extended the moratorium through March, and the latest stimulus package in the works would keep it in effect through September 2021.
More from Personal Finance:
Lawmakers question whether new child tax credit is too much or too little
Still no stimulus check? What that means for your tax return this year
Small business owners confused by PPP rules as priority window opens
The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Landlords have criticized the CDC’s moratorium, saying the government was overstepping its authority and that they can’t afford to house non-paying tenants. There have also been court challenges to the moratorium in Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee, though they were all unsuccessful.
Advocates of the ban quickly slammed the ruling, and feared it would trigger a flood of eviction filings. The winter storms that have led to massive power outages across Texas will only worsen the situation, they say.
“This decision is a major deviation from all other district court decisions that upheld the CDC moratorium as constitutional,” said Emily Benfer, a visiting professor of law at Wake Forest University.
“The CDC moratorium is a critical pandemic mitigation measure that protects health and safety by preventing the community spread of COVID-19 due to eviction,” she said.
Indeed, research has found that evictions lead to significantly more coronavirus cases and deaths in an area. By one estimate, there were worries about paying rent in more than 1.7 million households in Texas during the pandemic.
“This is a time where it’s not an overstatement to say that for many people, eviction can lead to death,” said Helen Matthews, communications manager at City Life Vita Urbana, a nonprofit in Boston.