A federal judge lifted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national eviction moratorium on Wednesday, leaving renters once again in a position of uncertainty, just about one month after the ban on evictions had been extended through the end of June.
Reactions to the order being lifted from the real estate community were mixed, reflecting some of the nation’s division over the order as a whole since it was first initiated about a year ago.
On the one hand, renter sympathizers have pointed out the plight of renters, many of whom have been high-contact workers most impacted by layoffs and health risks as a result of the pandemic.
On the other side, landlord groups and their allies — including the National Association of Realtors (NAR) — have said the moratorium is unconstitutional and unsustainable. Although landlords have received some support from federal rental assistance programs, many groups have argued that the funds are not sufficient, that they have too much red tape attached, or, even worse, some landlords have had to wait for months while states figure out how to distribute funds in an orderly, timely way.
“I look at it as a two-edged sword,” Patricia Young, an agent with Coldwell Banker Collins-Maury in Tennessee, told Inman. “Definitely it’s been a strain on the homeowners that are not being paid and haven’t been paid for this length of time, especially those that still have a mortgage-owned property themselves. But then again, if the tenant has been impacted by COVID and is out of work and doesn’t have the resources to pay, then it’s a sad situation for that tenant because at this point now, they’re faced with another tragedy.”
Kyo Freeman, a Realtor with City Chic Real Estate, noted that his market in and around Washington, D.C., was generally a very tenant-friendly place where evictions are pretty challenging to enact. So, he was optimistic that the end of the moratorium would not result in a wave of evictions in D.C. But, he disagreed with the way the moratorium ended somewhat abruptly, and said he felt more sympathy for the tenants than the landlords in general.
“I wish they had done more of a timeline — a ramp-down, maybe give a little more time,” Freeman said. “To take something that you have had for a year now, and then just immediately get rid of it will be challenging for people. It’s already a stressful time for a lot of folks, and so, I do feel like it’s an insensitive ruling that hasn’t thought through the policy of it.”
“But I understand from the landlord’s perspective. If somebody’s not paying rent, how would I make my money?” Freeman added. “It’s certainly not an easy situation for anybody.”
One commenter on Inman’s coverage of the moratorium being lifted expressed disbelief at how NAR has continued to support litigation against the moratorium, because of what it might imply towards future homebuyers.
“To think that any Realtors would think this is a good action to take against future client is just mind-blowing,” Patrick Harris, associate broker at RE/MAX Crossroads Fort Wayne in Indiana, wrote. “The NAR and its affiliated associations should be ashamed of this behavior.”
Still, many others in the industry were firmly in support of the moratorium being lifted, because of the way they feel the system has been abused by renters who may no longer be facing hardship — or are just taking the time they can get away with not paying rent as an extended sabbatical from the workforce.
“By staying home, they can tell their landlord that they are NOT working, therefore they CANNOT pay their rent,” Cathy Pedersen, a broker and marketer wrote. “Most of the tenants here, CAN pay their rent, they CHOOSE NOT to. The moratorium was protecting them. IT has to STOP. These people RUINED it for the ones that are REALLY in trouble and have a legitimate reason for not being able to pay their rent.”
Karla Vasquez, a broker at Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices in Phoenix, told Inman that she had actually heard of renters with fixed-income streams who had stopped paying rent because they thought anyone could stop paying rent under the moratorium.
“Some people on fixed-income — retirement or disability — thought they didn’t have to pay rent because it just went viral, ‘rent is not due,’” Vasquez told Inman. “So even though they could, they decided not to. Some people really needed [the moratorium], and some people didn’t, but I guess everybody felt like they should use it.”
It’s unclear how many tenants might have somehow abused the moratorium, particularly since they had to provide a number of different documents proving their hardship as a result of the pandemic. But what is clear is that there’s a substantial proportion of the real estate community that feels like the moratorium went on for too long, and that not enough resources were provided for landlords to withstand the effects of the moratorium on their own livelihood.
“I am definitely glad it was lifted,” Jenifer Garcia, broker/owner of Garcia Properties in St. Louis, told Inman in an email. “I agree with the initial sentiment of its intention when it was originally put in affect, but it’s time for it to go.”
“I see it being abused over and over again,” she added. “It’s put a lot of landlords into a very tight spot. So often when the public hears the word ‘landlord,’ they’re picturing some evil Ebenezer Scrooge-type character who doesn’t care about people and is sitting on a pile of cash. While that might be true for some landlords, the vast majority of the ones we work with are small mom and pops — and when the government allows tenants to live in their properties without paying rent, while their mortgages, water, trash, sewer, taxes and insurance bills are all still rolling in — it’s putting them in a precarious position of foreclosure.”