If you’re neither a landlord nor a renter, chances are you aren’t paying a whole lot of attention to the unconstitutional eviction moratorium that continues to be wrongly upheld in court. Everyone involved knows it doesn’t have a leg to stand on for multiple reasons, including the fact that the CDC does not have that type of authority. But even if we allow that their authority stems from the White House, the Supreme Court made it clear that his needs to be codified or ceased, not continuously renewed by executive order.
And yet, here we are. There is no end in sight to a policy that should not exist at the federal level and should be handled better at the state level. While nobody wants people to be evicted, we’re long past the point where government needs to step in and help them by doing more than just telling landlords they’re powerless.
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Keep in mind, I’m not a proponent of government intervention or perpetuation of the welfare state, but the circumstances that have prompted the moratorium still exist and must be alleviated properly. We need government to ease its way out of this, put people back to work, help landlords collect the revenue due to them, and keep families from hitting the streets.
Through it all is the implication that everyone seems to be ignoring. This ongoing moratorium is tantamount to de facto control of all private property by government. If they can tell landlords they must offer their private property to others without a reasonable expectation that they’ll be paid for it, they can tell anyone anything during whatever circumstance they deem to be an emergency. In other words, private property is a right granted by government since they have the power to take control of that private property at will.
Before going further, let’s get some details. According to The Liberty Loft:
Friday, a federal judge ruled that the Biden administration’s new eviction moratorium could be continued to be enforced, even with some doubt on its legality.
The moratorium, which prohibits landlords from evicting low-income tenants who ‘cannot’ afford their rent could be enforced since a Supreme Court majority technically ruled it was constitutional according to D.C. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich Friday.
A previous version of the moratorium was declared legal by a Supreme Court majority, which also stated that Congress would need to approve future moratoria.
“The Court’s hands are tied,” Friedrich wrote in her decision. “The Supreme Court did not issue a controlling opinion in this case, and circuit precedent provides that the votes of dissenting Justices may not be combined with that of a concurring Justice to create binding law.”
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for a 5-4 majority, said in June that the eviction moratorium could stay in place. While he admitted the federal government couldn’t extend it by simple means, Friedrich said it was unclear which justices on the court agreed with his view and therefore she was unable to strike the moratorium down.
This is not a victimless crime against the Constitution, private industry, or the economy in general. It isn’t just mega-corporations who can just round up on their ledgers and bury the losses they’re suffering. Renting properties was once a top revenue source for private citizens, especially retirees who used their accumulated properties over the decades as a way to generate passive income. Small rental property companies have been hit hard as well with many of them shuttering through the moratorium.
Illinois’ mom-and-pop landlords say the end of the eviction moratorium that was put in place to protect people who lost their jobs or got sick during the COVID-19 pandemic can’t come soon enough. Too many property owners are struggling with tenants who have racked up thousands of dollars in back rent balances, said Paul Arena, director of legislative affairs for the Illinois Rental Property Owners Association (IPOA).
“Everyone is extremely upset by the moratorium and the philosophy that housing providers should bear the burden of this,” Arena told Illinois Radio Network.
Many landlords are owed thousands of dollars in back rent and they have little hope of ever getting their money, he said.
“There seems to be this misconception that it is going to be OK because all this rent is going to get paid, and that is just not true,” Arena said.
Illinois has paid $185 million in emergency rental relief payments to 22,000 families during the pandemic. Arena said the problem is that many tenants who were out of work during the COVID shutdown do not meet income guidelines for government assistance.
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There is a gap in who is protected from eviction and who is eligible for government funds to cover back rental payments, Arena said.
“The eviction moratorium covers anyone making $99,000 a year or less, but the assistance is only available for people making 80 percent of the area median income or less,” he said.
In Winnebago County, where Arena owns rental properties, the cut-off for eligibility for rental assistance is $39,000 in annual income. Tenants who make more than $39,000 a year are not eligible to apply.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, many tenants fell months behind in their rent payments. Even though many tenants are now back at work, many are not able to make up the thousands of dollars in missed payments that they owe, Arena stated.
“We have property owners who are on the brink of bankruptcy because they can’t pay their bills and they can’t afford this anymore,” he said.
Arena owns 10 rental properties himself; three of his tenants had COVID-19 hardships and applied for rental assistance through the Illinois Department of Human Services partner non-profits. One of Arena’s tenants was a home healthcare aide whose hours were cut during the pandemic. Another tenant and two of her children got COVID-19 and were not able to work for several months.
All three of Arena’s tenants met Illinois emergency rent relief eligibility requirements. Their back rent payments were paid to him on their behalf through the Illinois emergency rental assistance programs, Arena said.
Other members of IRPOA were not so fortunate.
“I talked to a building owner over the weekend who was out $60,000 in unpaid rents. Some of the tenants had vacated the apartments. The owner was dealing with the reality that he was not going to be compensated for those,” Arena said. “He and his wife had been using their savings. They had been to the bank to borrow money to make ends meet. I could tell there was a great deal of concern.”
The eviction moratorium was scheduled to end July 1, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dodged a U.S. Supreme Court ruling by slightly adjusting it and extending it to Oct. 3.
As a nation, we have embraced capitalism. It has served us well for over two centuries. But capitalism is driven by a free market in which private property rights are honored. The eviction moratorium is rotting those rights away with every passing day.