The Supreme Court on Tuesday left intact a nationwide pause on evictions put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The 5-4 vote rejected an emergency request from a group of landlords asking the court to effectively end the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) eviction moratorium, which is set to run through July.
The landlord group had asked the justices to lift the stay on a ruling by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., that the moratorium amounted to an unlawful government overreach.
But Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined with the court’s three liberals to keep the stay in place.
“Because the CDC plans to end the moratorium in only a few weeks, on July 31, and because those few weeks will allow for additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds, I vote at this time to deny the application to vacate the District Court’s stay of its order,” Kavanaugh wrote in brief concurrence.
Yet Kavanaugh also said he agreed with the federal judge’s determination that the CDC had exceeded its authority in enacting the moratorium.
Four of the court’s more conservative justices, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, indicated that they would have lifted the stay and allowed the ruling from U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee, to take effect while the Biden administration appeals.
The CDC order was enacted in September under then-President Trump and subsequently extended by Congress and President Biden. Most recently, the Biden administration last week announced a one-month extension, through July, which is expected to be the final extension of the protections.
Kavanaugh, in his concurrence, said he believes Congress would need to pass new legislation for the CDC to lawfully push the moratorium past July 31.
The federal moratorium allows tenants who have lost income during the pandemic to protect themselves from eviction by declaring under penalty of perjury that they have made their best effort to pay rent and would face overcrowded conditions if evicted.
The extended protections come as landlords and property owners have sought to evict tens of thousands of cash-strapped renters from their homes and as federal rental aid continues to make its way to needy tenants.
Some state governments, which bear responsibility for distributing more than $45 billion in federally funded rental assistance, have been slow to make disbursements.
The eviction pause has faced numerous legal challenges, which have led to a patchwork of legal interpretations nationwide on the moratorium's lawfulness.
The landlord group that filed the emergency petition to the justices, led by the Alabama Association of Realtors, had asked the court to take up the matter in part to resolve the inconsistent legal rulings across the country. They also said in their court brief that property owners have lost $13 billion each month under the eviction freeze.