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On August 26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision in Alabama Association of Realtors et al. v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services et al. to lift the federal government’s eviction moratorium, stating the CDC lacked authority to impose the ban. This decision follows the Court’s June decision, which previously denied the group’s request to lift the eviction moratorium in order to let the ban expire at the end of July as intended to allow for a “more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds.” (Covered by InfoBytes here.) In agreeing with the group’s argument that the law on which the CDC relied upon did not allow it to implement the current ban, the majority held that “[i]t strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts,” pointing out that, as the Court noted in its June decision, “[i]f a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it.” This decision vacates a stay on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s judgment placed by the same court and renders the district court’s judgment enforceable. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the district court ruled that the CDC exceeded its authority when it imposed the temporary ban and stated that because the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) does not “grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium” the moratorium must be set aside.
The dissenting judges faulted the Court for deciding the issue without full briefing and argument, arguing that a stay entered by a lower court cannot be vacated “unless that court clearly and ‘demonstrably’ erred in its application of ‘accepted standards.’” Among other things, they pointed out that “it is far from ‘demonstrably’ clear that the CDC lacks the power to issue its modified moratorium order” as the CDC’s current, modified order targets only regions experiencing a spike in transmission rates. They further argued that the PHSA’s language authorizes the CDC “to design measures that, in the agency’s judgment, are essential to contain disease outbreaks,” and that “the balance of equities strongly favors leaving the stay in place.” According to the minority, “public interest strongly favors respecting the CDC’s judgment at this moment, when over 90% of counties are experiencing high transmission rates.”
Notably, the decision impact’s the CFPB’s interim final rule (Rule) amending Regulation F to require all landlords to disclose to tenants certain federal protections put in place as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic (covered by InfoBytes here). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee denied a request in May for a temporary restraining order to block the Rule, but noted however, that “by its own terms the Rule applies only during the effective period of the CDC Order, only to tenants to whom the CDC Order reasonably might apply, and only in jurisdictions in which the CDC Order applies. Defendant CFPB has opined, in its response to the Motion, that ‘the Rule’s provisions—by the Rule’s own operation—have no application where the CDC Order, on account of a court order or otherwise, does not apply.’ . . . The Court concurs with this view, and it intends to hold CFPB to this view (and believes that other courts perhaps should do likewise).”
On July 30, USDA, HUD, the VA, and FHFA extended their foreclosure-related eviction moratoria until September 30. The extensions follow President Biden’s July 29 announcement, which asked federal agencies to extend their respective eviction moratoria through the end of September following the expiration of the CDC’s moratorium on residential evictions on July 31. While Biden called on Congress to pass legislation to extend the eviction moratorium following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which stated that “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31”, emergency legislation to extend the federal eviction moratorium through the end of the year did not pass the U.S. House.
USDA extended its eviction moratorium for homeowners of properties financed or guaranteed by USDA through September 30 and reminded servicers that the single family foreclosure moratorium will expire on July 31. After this date, no new foreclosure filings should occur until homeowners are reviewed for new options to reduce their payments and stay in their homes, USDA noted.
FHA also announced the extension of its eviction moratorium for foreclosed borrowers and their occupants through September 30. The moratorium applies to homeowners with FHA-insured Title II Single Family forward and Home Equity Conversion (reverse) mortgages, excluding legally vacant or abandoned properties (see Mortgagee Letter 2021-19). The extension is intended to ensure borrowers with FHA-insured mortgages are not immediately displaced from their homes. FHA also noted the expiration of the foreclosure moratorium on July 31.
Additionally, VA Circular 26-21-14 extends eviction relief for properties previously secured by VA-guaranteed loans (including properties in VA’s Real Estate Owned (REO) portfolio through September 30, excluding vacant or abandoned properties.
Further, FHFA announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) will extend their moratorium on single-family REO evictions until September 30. The current moratorium was set to expire July 31. The REO eviction moratorium applies only to properties that have been acquired by the GSEs through foreclosure or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure transactions. FHFA also encouraged landlords of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac-backed properties to apply for Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) before beginning the process of evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent, and directed tenants and landlords to the CFPB’s online Rental Assistance Finder.
On July 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that statutory language did not authorize the CDC to implement a moratorium on evictions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs, a group of rental property owners and managers, filed a lawsuit seeking declaratory judgment and a preliminary injunction, claiming the CDC’s order exceeded the government’s statutory grant of power and violated the Constitution and the Administrative Procedures Act. The district court found that the moratorium exceeded the government’s statutory authority under 42 U.S.C. § 264(a) and ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on the declaratory judgment claim. The 6th Circuit denied the government’s motion for an emergency stay pending appeal, citing that the government was unlikely to succeed on the merits.
In affirming the district court’s ruling and addressing the merits in the current order, the 6th Circuit reviewed whether Section 264(a) of the Public Health Act of 1944 allowed the CDC to issue its moratorium. The appellate court held that while the statute allows the Surgeon General, with the approval of the Secretary, to make and enforce such regulations as are “necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the States or possessions, or from one State or possession into any other State or possession,” it “does not grant the CDC the power it claims.” Additionally, the appellate court concluded that an eviction moratorium did not fit the mold of actions permitted under the statute’s language. The 6th Circuit emphasized that even if the language of the statute could be construed more expansively, it could not “grant the CDC the power to insert itself into landlord-tenant relationships without clear textual evidence of Congress’s intent to do so.” Writing that “[a]gencies cannot discover in a broadly worded statute authority to supersede state landlord-tenant law,” the appellate court explained that the government’s interpretation of the statute presented a nondelegation problem, which “would grant the CDC director near-dictatorial power for the duration of the pandemic, with authority to shut down entire industries as freely as she could ban evictions.” Furthermore, the appellate court concluded that any potential ratification taken by Congress last December when former President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which, among other things, extended the expiration date of the eviction moratorium, “did not purport to alter the meaning of § 264(a), so it did not grant the CDC the power to extend the order further than Congress had authorized.”
On July 1, the CFPB released a new bulletin analyzing consumer complaints and responses related to actions taken by Congress or the Bureau to provide relief for consumers impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The bulletin expands upon the Bureau’s 2020 Consumer Response Annual report (covered by InfoBytes here) and specifically focuses on consumer complaints related to: (i) suspended monthly federal student loan payments; (ii) Economic Impact Payments (EIPs); and (iii) the Bureau’s interim final rule supporting the CDC’s eviction moratorium. With respect to student loans, the bulletin noted a significant decrease in federal student loan complaints following the suspension of payments, but identified complaints related to potential customer service issues concerning repayment options or available relief and discussed servicers’ ability to respond timely to complaints. With respect to EIPs, the bulletin discussed complaints about overdraft fees charged to consumers after advances made by financial institutions to allow consumers access to all of their EIP funds were reversed, and highlighted steps taken by institutions to refund these fees. According to the bulletin, consumers who received EIPs via prepaid debit cards also reported issues accessing funds, while some consumers claimed their accounts were locked following the second and third disbursements. The bulletin also described the various types of consumer complaints related to the eviction moratorium, including complaints related to collection activities and credit reporting.
On June 2, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied a group of realtors’ motion to lift an administrative stay placed by a district court on its own order, in which it had previously ruled that the CDC’s nationwide eviction moratorium issued in response to the Covid-19 pandemic exceeded the agency’s statutory authority with the temporary ban. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the district court vacated the CDC’s eviction moratorium and rejected the federal government’s request that the decision be narrowed, ruling that “when ‘regulations are unlawful, the ordinary result is that the rules are vacated—not that their application to the individual petitioner is proscribed.’” However, shortly after the federal government filed a notice of appeal, the district court stayed its own summary judgment order pending appeal.
In denying the plaintiffs’ motion to vacate the stay pending appeal, the appellate court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in staying its own ruling, and noted that the federal government has a good chance of winning its appeal. “[W]hile of course not resolving the ultimate merits of the legal question, we conclude that [the federal government] has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits,” the appellate court wrote, adding, among other things, that “Congress has expressly recognized that the agency had the authority to issue its narrowly crafted moratorium.” Moreover, the D.C. Circuit determined that the plaintiffs failed to show the likelihood of irreparable injury should the stay remain in place.
On June 1, the Colorado governor issued Executive Order 2021 110, which amends Executive Order 2021 088, as extended by Executive Order 2021 105. The amendment provides that an individual is prohibited from filing or initiating actions for forcible entry and detainer (i.e., eviction), including any demand for rent, unless the individual has notified the tenant in writing of the resources available to tenants and landlords, including a copy of the Department of Local Affairs resources. The Executive Order also directs the Executive Officer of the Department of Local Affairs to continue working with landlords to implement the model rent repayment agreements, to assist individuals who are unable to pay rent. Executive Order 2021 110 is set to expire on June 30. Previous coverage relating to Colorado’s eviction orders can be found here, here, here, and here.
On May 17, Illinois enacted the Emergency Housing Rental Assistance Program Act. Among other things, the law details how the state will distribute funds received through the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance program. The law also provides for the sealing of residential eviction records through August 2022 and places judicial sales of property on hold until July 31, 2021.
On May 5, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the CDC’s eviction moratorium issued in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, ruling that the agency exceeded its authority with the temporary ban. The nationwide eviction ban was recently extended until June 30. Other courts have ruled on the lawfulness of the eviction moratorium but have limited the scope of their decisions to apply only to the particular parties involved in those lawsuits (see, e.g. InfoBytes coverage here). However, in vacating the eviction moratorium, the court rejected the federal government’s request that the decision be narrowed. “The Department urges the Court to limit any vacatur order to the plaintiffs with standing before this Court,” the court wrote. However the court found that “[t]his position is ‘at odds with settled precedent’” and that “when ‘regulations are unlawful, the ordinary result is that the rules are vacated—not that their application to the individual petitioner is proscribed.’” The court further emphasized that “[i]t is the role of the political branches, and not the courts, to assess the merits of policy measures designed to combat the spread of disease, even during a global pandemic.” Specifically, the court noted that the “question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not. Because the plain language of the Public Health Service Act . . . unambiguously forecloses the nationwide eviction moratorium, the Court must set aside the CDC order.”
Following the ruling, the DOJ issued a statement announcing its intention to appeal the court’s decision, citing that the court’s order “conflicts with the text of the statute, Congress’s ratification of the moratorium, and the rulings of other courts.”
On April 20, the governor of Colorado issued an executive order providing additional protections for tenants at risk of eviction due to the impact of Covid-19. The order suspends portions of the Colorado statutes that require landlords to provide tenants with 10 days’ notice of default on rent payments during which the tenant may cure the default. The order instead requires landlords to provide 30 days’ notice of any default for nonpayment of rent on or after March 10, 2020. During this 30-day period, landlords are prohibited from initiating an action for forcible entry and tenants have the opportunity to cure any default.
On April 2, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker issued Executive Order 2021-06, which extends several executive orders through May 1, 2021 (previously covered here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Among other things, the order extends: (i) Executive Order 2020-07 regarding in-person meeting requirements, (ii) Executive Order 2020-23 regarding actions by individuals licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation engaged in disaster response, (iii) Executive Order 2020-25 regarding garnishment and wage deductions (previously covered here), (iv) Executive Order 2020-30 regarding residential evictions (previously covered here), and (v) Executive Order 2020-72 regarding the residential eviction moratorium (previously covered here and here).