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Federal judge says CDC didn't have power to order national eviction ban

Moving trucks, workers and boxes dominate a street in New York City on May 27, 2020, shortly after Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered that renters cannot be thrown out for nonpayment due to hardship from the coronavirus crisis. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Moving trucks, workers and boxes dominate a street in New York City on May 27, 2020, shortly after Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered that renters cannot be thrown out for nonpayment due to hardship from the coronavirus crisis. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 11 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Ohio has ruled that federal regulators overstepped their authority in ordering a national moratorium on rental evictions after the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

U.S. District Court Judge Philip Calabrese ruled in favor Wednesday of a group of property owners who argued in October that the ban, ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was an overreach.

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Calabrese said in his 31-page decision that the halt on evictions exceeded the CDC's authority provided under the Public Health Service Act.

Pacific Legal Foundation, arguing that landlords "deserve to be paid," defended the judge's ruling.

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"The decision makes clear that federal agencies can't exercise power Congress has not given them," Pacific Legal Foundation Senior Attorney Steve Simpson said in a statement. "Now our clients no longer have to provide housing for free."

The CDC ordered the ban last September and it was extended through March. It cited COVID-19 as a "historic threat to public health" and said evictions increased transmission risks. The order covers renters who make "best efforts" to make timely payments and have suffered "substantial loss of household income" due to the pandemic.

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Calabrese stopped short of granting an injunction to stop the CDC from enforcing the moratorium, but renters advocates expressed concern.

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"This order could immediately result in a flood of evictions of struggling renters resulting in increased spread of, and potentially deaths from, COVID-19," National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diana Yentel told CNBC.

"The [Department of Justice] should immediately appeal and request a stay on the ruling."

The coalition also called on the Biden administration to extend the eviction ban beyond March.

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Last month, a federal judge in Texas also ruled that the moratorium is unconstitutional. The Justice Department has said it will appeal that decision.

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January 31, 2020
National Institutes of Health official Dr. Anthony Fauci (C) speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar (L) announced that the United States is declaring the virus a public health emergency and issued a federal quarantine order of 14 days for 195 Americans. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

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