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Georgia landlord among those challenging CDC eviction moratorium

Stephannie Stokes Oct 16, 2020
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Property owners around the country are suing the CDC over its eviction moratorium. Above, a Maricopa County constable knocks on an apartment door in Phoenix before evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent on Oct. 6. John Moore/Getty Images
COVID-19

Georgia landlord among those challenging CDC eviction moratorium

Stephannie Stokes Oct 16, 2020
Heard on:
Property owners around the country are suing the CDC over its eviction moratorium. Above, a Maricopa County constable knocks on an apartment door in Phoenix before evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent on Oct. 6. John Moore/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Sonya Jones produces chicken eggs on her farm in Southeast Georgia. As she’s earned money over the past 20 years, she’s invested in more than a dozen rental properties.

“When you work by yourself, you don’t really have retirement,” she said. “So that’s what I’m trying to do — just build that up so that I will have something.”

But recently, a tenant in one of those properties kept falling behind on their monthly $450 rent. And when Jones tried to evict the tenant in court, she learned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has halted residential evictions for now.

“What right do they have to tell me I can’t have my own property?” Jones said.

Jones is one of the property owners around the country suing the CDC over its eviction moratorium. The federal agency ordered a stop to evictions in cases where tenants are behind on rent to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. But some landlords say the moratorium is government overreach.

The CDC order places landlords in an impossible position, said Robert Pinnegar, president of the National Apartment Association, another plaintiff in the case.

“The industry is trying to work as much as possible with residents to be able to help them bridge this gap. But with every passing month, it is a challenge,” Pinnegar said.

He said some landlords may not be able to survive. They have mortgages, and he said the government has to help. The amount of missed rent this year could total $34 billion nationwide, according to a report by the National Council of State Housing Agencies.

Eric Dunn with the National Housing Law Project said he agrees that landlords need financial help. Still, he said challenging the eviction moratorium is the wrong move.

“There’s no constitutional right to evict tenants,” Dunn said.

The government can prohibit evictions, Dunn said, as long as there’s a rational basis. And when there’s a pandemic?

“Well, then, absolutely, there’s a rational basis to curb these sort of things,” he said.

The moratorium is effective through Dec. 31. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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