Days after the Biden administration extended the nationwide moratorium on evictions, the Supreme Court stopped one part of New York’s ban on evictions and a district judge ruled that Biden’s extension is illegal, though she cannot stop it.
The Supreme Court lifted one part of New York’s COVID Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act, which prevented a landlord from contesting a tenant’s self-certification of financial hardship. The unsigned ruling granted injunctive relief for only this part of the law.
The majority wrote, “If a tenant self-certifies financial hardship, Part A of CEEFPA generally precludes a landlord from contesting that certification and denies the landlord a hearing. This scheme violates the Court’s longstanding teaching that ordinarily ‘no man can be a judge in his own case’ consistent with the Due Process Clause.”
The majority added that the injunction does not stop the enforcement of the Tenant Safe Harbor Act (TSHA), adding,
“Among other things, TSHA instructs New York courts to entertain a COVID-related hardship defense in eviction proceedings, assessing a tenant’s income prior to COVID, income during COVID, liquid assets, and ability to obtain government assistance. §2(2)(b). If the court finds the tenant ‘has suffered a financial hardship’ during a statutorily-prescribed period, then it ‘shall [not] issue a warrant of eviction or judgment of possession.’”
Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor dissented, writing, “While applicants correctly point out that there are landlords who suffer hardship, we must balance against the landlords’ hardship the hardship to New York tenants who have relied on [the act’s] protections and will now be forced to face eviction proceedings earlier than expected.”
Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled that the eviction moratorium put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is illegal, but that her hands are tied due to an appellate court decision on the previous eviction moratorium. She claimed that the CDC does not have the authority to order a moratorium on evictions and that she would rule to allow evictions to resume, but she is bound by the appellate court’s previous decision.
While these rulings do not enjoin the Biden administration’s unilateral extension of the eviction moratorium, they provide further evidence that the courts do value the property rights of landlords and their right to due process. Friedrich’s ruling that the extension is illegal is potentially telling of its fate.
The Supreme Court already ruled that an extension of the nationwide moratorium would require an act of Congress, seemingly indicating that they would find the CDC’s recent extension of the moratorium unconstitutional.
Landlords are still waiting for COVID relief after missing out on rent payments from tenants. It is important that the Court recognizes the rights of landlords and property owners as the battle between the federal executive branch and landlords may intensify in coming weeks.