A federal judge ruled against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium on evictions on Wednesday, but real estate experts said that the ruling has no immediate impact on South Florida landlords and renters.
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Dabney Friedrich argued in her ruling filed on Wednesday that the CDC moratorium should be lifted. In January, President Joe Biden extended the CDC moratorium until June 30.
Opponents have until May 12th to respond and file objections. The Department of Justice is then set to review Friedrich’s ruling and arguments filed against it on May 16th.
“It’s important because the potential impact of a ruling like this is that it could lift the moratorium before its anticipated expiration date,” said Annie Lord, Executive Director at Miami Homes For All. “These moratoriums have been shown to save lives, especially during this pandemic and especially in places with high proportions of low-income renters. It has saved more lives in those places.”
Moratoriums on evictions reduce the spread of COVID-19 infections by 3.8 percent and reduce deaths by 11 percent, according to a national study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
In March, Miami-Dade County began processing evictions that were filed during the pandemic but were not pandemic-related.
The CDC moratorium did not protect against evictions filed against tenants whose leases had expired.
“Pretty much every judge in Miami-Dade County has determined it doesn’t apply to those types of evictions,” said Lissie Salazar, senior staff attorney for tenants’ rights at Legal Services of Greater Miami. “So we’ve been seeing a lot of people evicted despite the CDC order.”
On March 18, the Miami Herald reported evictions had begun moving forward in Miami-Dade after the county appeared to shift policy. More than 500 evictions were carried out in March, according to the Miami Workers Center, a nonprofit advocating for the rights of women and minority laborers.
Still, Judge Friedrich’s ruling will likely spark more conversations between landlords and tenants.
“It will create a fierce urgency among tenants to either get the rental assistance that is available or make arrangements with the landlords,” said Kim Henderson, president and CEO of the Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida. “Many people rely on rental income...We have to get to a policy that is balanced and protects independent landlords as well.”
Landlords are celebrating Judge Friedrich’s ruling, said Carolina Sznajderman Sheir, a partner at Eisinger Law. She often represents landlords in landlord-tenant disputes.
“For landlords, it’s been a frustration because landlords have to pay their mortgages and they were cut out by these moratoriums. It’s a relief valve for the landlords,” she said. “We [also] have a relief valve that allows the association to evict a tenant in the event that a unit is delinquent. Now, landlords can’t say ‘well my tenant is not paying.’ ”
Miami Homes for All argues tenants should be protected from eviction through the end of the year, Lord said.
“We need to give assistance [time] to hit the market before we throw people out on the street,” Lord said. “The federal government passed a couple of packages to provide emergency rental assistance. They are still processing all of that money and disbursing it.”
Tenants had to apply for rental assistance and could receive funding to cover up to 12 months of missed rent. If approved, the landlord would receive the aid.