An eviction notice in Los Angeles.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters
A federal judge in Texas ruled the September national eviction ban is unconstitutional.
"Although the Covid-19 pandemic persists, so does the constitution," wrote US District Judge John Barker on Thursday evening, joining a group of property managers who argued that the ban was beyond the power of the federal government.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's national eviction moratorium was first announced in September 2020 under former President Donald Trump. It banned the eviction of tenants who had financial problems because of the coronavirus pandemic.
President Joe Biden has since extended the moratorium to March, calling for it to remain in effect until September 2021.
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The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Landlords have criticized the CDC's moratorium, stating that the government has exceeded its authority and cannot afford to accommodate non-paying tenants. There have also been legal challenges to the moratorium in Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee, though all of them were unsuccessful.
Proponents of the ban were quick to slam the ruling, fearing it would spark a spate of eviction requests. The winter storms that caused massive power outages across Texas will only make things worse, they say.
"This ruling is a major departure from any other district court rulings that upheld the CDC moratorium as constitutional," said Emily Benfer, visiting law professor at Wake Forest University.
"The CDC moratorium is a critical pandemic containment measure that protects health and safety by preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the community due to eviction," she said.
Research has shown that evictions in one area lead to significantly more coronavirus cases and deaths. One estimate in Texas raised concerns about renting rents in more than 1.7 million households during the pandemic.
The Texas judge has not yet issued an injunction, although he suggested doing so later. Such a move would put millions of Americans at risk of being displaced.
Proponents hope the White House will intervene quickly.
"All eyes are now on the Biden administration to see how and if they will vigorously defend the CDC eviction moratorium in court," said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.