The National Apartment Association (NAA) announced today that it is taking legal action against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its nationwide eviction moratorium, joining the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) in its lawsuit challenging the legality of the federal agency’s action.
The NAA reiterated its argument that federal agencies do not have powers to waive state laws and that the CDC has encroached on private property rights with no legal authority.
Rental housing industry advocates maintain that they should not be held responsible for solving the nation’s housing crisis and that government agencies should not trade one crisis for another.
The NAA and NCLA, a non-partisan, non-profit civil rights group, contend that the CDC’s order directly harms the apartment industry and jeopardizes the long-term viability of rental housing.
The lawsuit, Richard Lee Brown, et al. v. Secretary Alex Azar, et al., argues that rental housing providers, especially small mom-and-pop owners, have been irreparably damaged by the CDC order and its overreach because they do not have the ability to absorb delinquent rent and still pay their bills required to keep communities operational and tenants in their apartment homes.
In addition, the groups say federal agencies do not have powers to waive state laws and that the CDC has encroached on private property rights with no legal authority.
Rental housing advocates say the moratorium is overly burdensome and undermines their obligations to provide safe and affordable housing. They assert that many rental housing providers are unable to collect rent under the order, including rental debt, which limits their ability to pay taxes, mortgages, insurance and utilities and provide contracted services to other residents who have paid their rent.
“Eviction moratoria saddle the apartment industry solely with the responsibility of offering a service without compensation, all while operating at a potential deficit,” said Bob Pinnegar, NAA president and CEO. “Rental housing works on extremely narrow margins and, though last paid themselves, owners still need to pay extensive bills.”
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, NAA has called for direct rental assistance, claiming that is the only policy that keeps people housed and directly addresses the needs of owners and operators alike.
In an official statement, NAA said, “Despite continued calls for this much needed relief from a chorus of voices, including renter advocates and real estate groups, Congress has failed to enact direct rental assistance. This inaction, paired with the CDC eviction moratorium, devastates the industry in the short-term and furthers the housing affordability crisis, to the detriment of the broader economy in the long-term.”
Pinnegar said, “A nationwide eviction moratorium without any kind of financial or direct rental assistance will exacerbate the nation’s housing affordability crisis and reverberate into national, state and local economies. If owners and operators cannot pay their bills – including apartment staff payroll, taxes, mortgages and insurance – rental units lose financial viability and money stops flowing to other sectors of the economy. Further, many rental housing units may be permanently lost from our already insufficient housing stock, whether by foreclosure, government liens or even the sale of the property.”