The Law Q&A | Taking another look at the CDC’s eviction moratorium | Columns

We last discussed the Illinois Supreme Court issuing an administrative order on all state courts to halt certain eviction lawsuits filed by landlords against residential tenants whose economic plight is pandemic-related.

We hate to beat a dead horse, but this nag deserves another whipping.

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the agency tasked with preventing or controlling diseases in the nation, issued a regulatory ruling ordering a moratorium on certain COVID-19-related residential eviction lawsuits.

The CDC’s moratorium only halts enforcement of evictions. It does not halt the filing of an eviction suit or prosecuting the case until a possession order is entered by a judge. It covers only those situations where, if an eviction order has been entered by a court, the actual legal booting out of the tenant is halted.

At this writing, this moratorium lasts until Oct. 3.

Like the Illinois Supreme Court halt, the CDC halt is only to “covered persons” whose definition is identical to the Illinois Supremes’.

These are tenants under certain income limits who had a COVID-19-related loss of income causing them to fall behind on rent.

However, the CDC’s moratorium also only covers those persons residing in portions of the country where there is a high transmission of the SARS virus (which causes COVID-19) as that transmission rate is defined by the CDC. Which, right now, is growing exponentially where there are low rates of vaccinations and high rates of non-mask wearing.

The news of the CDC rule no sooner hit the press then a lawsuit by an amalgam of landlord associations hit federal court. The Plaintiffs seek to evict the CDC moratorium from being enforceable. Among their claims, they allege they have suffered federal constitutional violations of wrongful taking of property (denial of ability to timely repossess their real estate) and violations of their contractual rights and access to courts by the limitation on booting people into the street.

The policy behind the moratorium extension is to buy time.

Time for infection rates to drop. Time for such economically distressed tenants to try to get funding from national and state sources designed to get landlords paid and tenants current on their leases.

That same policy also drives new restrictions imposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on home foreclosures of any “federally related” mortgages. Such restrictions, now running from Aug. 31 through Dec. 31, require mortgage lenders to give defaulting borrowers greater opportunity to resolve their financial distress before foreclosing.

The CDC’s earlier blanket national eviction moratorium barely survived a legal challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court. The 5-4 vote in support had justice Kavanaugh voting with the majority but oddly proclaiming he thought the moratorium was not authorized under CDC’s authority. But he thought because it was set to expire within a month of the ruling, the extra time would allow a more orderly distribution of Congressionally funded rental assistance.

That earlier CDC moratorium was a blanket one across the nation. This one is far more narrowly drawn as to manner, place and persons covered. We shall see if it survives SCOTUS’ likely review.

My moratorium announced last week on watching the Cubs is extended until March 31, 2022 — Opening Day of MLB’s season.

That decision will have no appeal, no review.

Brett Kepley is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Inc. Send questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820.

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