Federal Judge Rules Against National Eviction Ban

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on May 5, 2021

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A federal eviction ban has prevented homelessness during the pandemic, but one judge just ruled that it won't fly.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs in the course of the coronavirus pandemic or have seen their income take a serious hit. And many people didn't have savings to fall back on before the crisis began. As such, a lot of renters have fallen behind over the past year, and the one thing that's prevented them from becoming homeless is the national eviction moratorium that was put in place at the start of the pandemic.

The eviction ban is currently set to expire in June, after President Biden implemented several extensions in an effort to avoid a major homelessness crisis. But now, a federal judge has ruled against the eviction ban, which could put millions of Americans at risk of being out on the streets.

Could a key form of protection go away?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put the current eviction ban in place. But why did the CDC get involved? It's simple: Mass evictions can lead to homelessness, and an uptick in homelessness could fuel the spread of COVID-19. The eviction moratorium isn't just meant to throw jobless workers a bone -- it's also intended to help avert a major public health crisis (or, more accurately, prevent an existing one from getting exponentially worse).

But on May 5, Federal Judge Dabney Friedrich overturned the eviction ban, saying that the CDC does not have the power to implement one. That decision will likely sit well with landlords, who have argued that they've been left out in the cold since the pandemic began. While some landlords are major property management companies with tons of financial resources, others are mom-and-pop operations -- everyday people who rely on their rental income to stay afloat themselves. It's these landlords who the eviction ban has really hurt, and advocates have long been screaming that the moratorium is downright unfair to them.

Thankfully, landlords who haven't been able to collect rent have also had the option to put their mortgages into forbearance, thereby getting to pause those payments. But once forbearance runs out, those landlords will have to make good on their loan payments -- and if they're unable to evict non-paying tenants and fill their units with those who can pay, that may prove problematic.

The whole situation is messy for everyone involved, but the reality is that an estimated 20% of renters are struggling to keep up with their housing payments. While there is rental assistance -- $45 billion of it -- to help renters catch up, states have been slow to give it out.

Now to be clear, just because a single judge has ruled against the eviction ban doesn't mean millions of people will be out on the street tomorrow. Several judges have previously tried to strike down the moratorium, but in the past, decisions rendered in landlords' favor have impacted a limited number of people only -- namely, the plaintiffs who brought those cases to trial in the first place. It's unclear as to what consequences Judge Friedrich's ruling will have, but renters may be understandably on edge after hearing the decision.

It's estimated that there were 1.55 million fewer evictions in 2020 than would've been expected due to the ban that was put into place. At this point, that ban is supposed to remain in effect for another two months, and pulling it prematurely could be downright catastrophic.

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