The national moratorium on evictions enacted last year to help struggling renters during the pandemic is illegal, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. But Arizona renters are still protected — at least for now.
U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of the District of Columbia ruled Wednesday the federal government overreached in enacting the ban and ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium be thrown out.
The Department of Justice announced it would fight the judge’s decision.
“The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a notice of appeal to the DC Circuit of this morning’s ruling vacating the CDC’s eviction moratorium. Also we seek a stay of the decision, pending appeal,” Justice Department spokesperson Anthony Coley said via tweet.
While the court process plays out, renters will remain protected in Maricopa County, county justice courts spokesman Scott Davis said.
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Davis called the court’s decision “significant and not wholly unexpected given that other, lower courts have found similarly,” but said “no change will take place immediately, if at all.”
“It would be imprudent to suddenly reverse course without considering a myriad of implications to renters and landlords who have cases pending,” Davis said.
He said the justice courts will continue operating in compliance with the CDC moratorium unless the Arizona Supreme Court or other, higher authority instructs them otherwise.
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The CDC moratorium protects renters from eviction for nonpayment of rent if they sign a declaration stating they lost income during the pandemic and adhere to certain requirements, including applying for rental assistance.
The moratorium is set to expire June 30.
The Arizona Multihousing Association, which represents landlords across the state, has disputed the legality of the CDC moratorium and other moratoriums since they were enacted last year.
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“That moratorium coupled with the state’s actions mean many property owners have gone more than a year providing free housing to residents while still paying their own mortgages, bills and maintenance costs,” President and CEO Courtney LeVinus said.
LeVinus said she hopes Wednesday’s ruling pushes all government agencies in Arizona to speed up distribution of the approximately $1 billion the state has set aside for rental assistance.
“No one needs to be evicted for not paying rent — if government finally acts to effectively and efficiently distribute this relief funding,” she said.
USA Today contributed to this story.
Coverage of housing insecurity on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or 480-694-1823. Follow her on Twitter @jboehm_NEWS.
AUTHOR: Jessica Boehm and Catherine Reagor