Published On: Tue, Dec 22nd, 2020

CDC National Eviction Ban Challenged by VA Landlord’s Lawsuit

On September 8, a Virginia landlord filed a lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to stop the nationwide ban on evictions implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the complaint, the landlord argues that the eviction ban, meant to prevent the spread of the virus, is an overextension of governmental power. Following the initial complaint, the HHS responded by filing a response document. If successful, the landlord’s lawsuit could create sweeping change across the country.

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Details on the CDC Eviction Ban

On September 4, the CDC issued a temporary halt of evictions to prevent the Coronavirus spread. While issuing the order, CDC Director Robert Redfield stated that evictions could burden the public health system by creating barriers preventing social distancing and quarantining. The CDC notes that maintaining distance from others and quarantining is critical, as COVID-19 exposure may increase with proximity. The current CDC eviction ban is set to expire on January 1, 2021. 

Details of the Lawsuit  

In the initial complaint filed in Georgia court, the landlord alleges that the eviction ban is an unprecedented measure by the federal government that violates an individual’s rights. Specifically, the complaint states that neither statute nor regulation authorizes the CDC’s ban. The landlord also argues that the eviction ban violates the Constitution and non-delegation doctrine.

“The non-delegation doctrine is a rule that prohibits Congress to give certain powers to administrative agencies like the CDC,” said St. Louis immigration attorney Jim Hacking from Hacking Law Practice, LLC. “By saying that the CDC violated the non-delegation doctrine, the landlord is arguing that the eviction ban is unenforceable because Congress should be responsible for implementing the ban.”

The Response of the HHS

In response to the landlord’s complaint, HHS Secretary Alex Azar filed a document stating that the CDC’s action is authorized under the 1944 Public Health Service Act (PHSA). The PHSA authorizes the HHS, including the CDC, to implement a response whenever a public health emergency is declared. Additionally, the document states that the CDC eviction ban still allows a landlord to receive rent payments, interest, and other debt owed. Azar also noted that the eviction ban is necessary to combat COVID-19, as increased evictions could over-crowd homeless shelters and public areas. In turn, this would further burden the public health system by leading to increases in Coronavirus cases. 

Background on the Eviction Ban Lawsuit Case

The eviction ban lawsuit arose after the tenant of a Virginia landlord accrued over $8,000 in debt from unpaid rent over several months. The landlord attempted to serve an eviction notice to the tenant but was informed by the local sheriff’s department that the notices were not being issued. In their explanation, the sheriff’s department cited the CDC and Supreme Court of Virginia’s orders to suspend evictions in preventing the spread of COVID-19. The lawsuit is currently in the appeals process for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  

Author: Sadaf Zain

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