Landlords across the country are waiting for a court to declare the administrations moratorium on evictions to be illegal, but at the moment, the news from the courts is not encouraging. Several groups seeking to have the moratorium judge handling the case declared that she was caught between the Supreme Court and the rules of the District Court for the District of Columbia and could not give the plaintiffs the relief that they sought.
The lawsuit was started by the Alabama and Georgia chapters of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The complaint asked the court to immediately declare the moratorium to be unlawful and to enjoin the president’s order extending the moratorium past its present expiration date of July 31, 2021 to Oct. 3, 2021. The plaintiffs relied on the decision of the Supreme Court.
The court’s ruling
In a recent decision on the moratorium, the Supreme Court ruled that the existing moratorium was legal but that any extensions must be enacted by Congress. The district court handling the latest lawsuit concluded that she was bound by the Supreme Court’s opinion that technically upheld the legality of the moratorium. The judge wrote that her hands “were tied.” She said that under rules of the D.C. Circuit, a district court could not combine the votes of dissenting justices with that of a concurring justice to create a binding precedent.
The effect of the ruling
The judge’s ruling applies to more than 12 million Americans who were facing imminent eviction. The president had drafted a bill asking Congress to extend the moratorium, but progressives and others convinced the president that his bill would not get Senate approval. The president has indicated that he believes that the slowness of the judicial process will provide ample protection for renters. Small renters have reported a number of incidents in which they have been insulted and spat upon.
Any landlord who is owed a significant amount of back rent may wish to consult a lawyer with experience in landlord-tenant matters for advice on how to proceed. Patience may be the best advice for the moment.