Time to Rein in Government’s Pandemic Overreach — Starting with CDC’s Eviction Ban

Co-authored by Steven D. Anderson

When the history of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 is written, it will need a section on the most counterproductive and overreaching government responses. That list should include the nationwide ban on residential rental evictions imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September.

That’s right, public health officials have decided to claim regulatory authority over the residential real estate market. The CDC doesn’t have the authority for such a sweeping declaration, which goes far beyond the agency’s statutory mission to fight infectious diseases. 

Through the end of this year, the CDC’s rule prohibits property owners from evicting qualified renters who fail to pay rent. Renters who meet certain income requirements but are unable to pay rent because of the pandemic must make a formal declaration to their landlord. If the tenant shows that they are entitled to this protection — by, for example, saying they would be homeless or forced to move in with others — the landlord can be barred from beginning eviction proceedings against the delinquent renter.

Property owners who fail to comply with the CDC’s eviction ban face heavy penalties — including criminal prosecution, possible jail time, and fines of up to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for business entities.

According to the CDC, this extraordinary step is needed to curb the spread of COVID-19. The CDC’s rationale is that evicted renters could be forced into shared living arrangements or even crowded into homeless shelters, raising the risk of virus transmission.

Under the Public Health Service Act, the CDC is authorized to take steps to counter the spread of infectious diseases. Yet, the law only authorizes the secretary of Health and Human Services to “provide for such inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, destruction of animals or articles found to be so infected or contaminated … and other measures.” Given the specific and limited nature of the powers listed in the law, it’s difficult to believe that Congress would have sanctioned a nationwide ban on eviction as a reasonable step.

Read the full article at The Hill.