Tue | Jan 19, 2021

Landlords in US suing to push back against eviction ban

Published:Friday | September 25, 2020 | 4:12 PM
Buildings at Hunter Oaks Apartments undergo renovations on Tuesday, September 22, 2020, in Memphis, Tennessee. Owners of the apartment complex are among seven landlords who manage or own more than 5,000 rental units and have filed a lawsuit claiming that a national eviction moratorium has not only placed them under unfair financial strain but also infringed on their rights as property owners. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) — As millions of Americans struggle to pay their rent during the coronavirus pandemic, landlords are going to courts, claiming that the national eviction moratorium unfairly strains their finances and violates their property rights.

At least 26 such lawsuits have been filed by property owners this year, including several federal challenges of President Donald Trump’s directive, delivered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that broadly prevents evictions through the end of 2020.

In Memphis, seven landlords who together manage or own more than 5,000 rental units sued this month, accusing Trump and other federal officials of unconstitutionally violating their due process protections and wrongly preempting state laws.

The National Apartment Association joined a separate federal lawsuit this month in Georgia against the CDC.

Another legal battle has been filed in Ohio.

“All plaintiffs have tenants in units who are delinquent in the payment of rent and who would be otherwise lawfully evicted from the units ... but for the halt order,” the complaint in Memphis says.

These landlords are required by law to spend money on repairs and upkeep of the rental homes, but aren’t getting federal help under the ban, it says.

Housing advocates worry that overturning these bans could cause homelessness to spike, forcing people to crowd into indoor spaces and shelters and worsening the spread of infection.

The CDC’s directive, which took effect September 4, is based on the agency’s broad powers to protect public health. The agency put it in the context of other historic, unprecedented and exceedingly rare government responses to the pandemic, and said stopping evictions is an effective way of preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

To be eligible for this protection, renters must earn $198,000 or less for couples filing jointly, or $99,000 for single filers; demonstrate that they’ve sought government help to pay the rent; declare that they can’t pay because of COVID-19 hardships, and affirm that they are likely to become homeless if evicted.

The CDC’s directive was handed down just as many other eviction bans — including the CARES Act’s eviction moratorium, which covered an estimated 12 million people in federally supported housing — were set to expire.

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