The largest Realtors association in the country is the latest to sue the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over its ban on evictions, which is set to expire June 30.
Florida Realtors filed the federal suit, alleging many of its 200,000 members who handle residential leases have been “detrimentally impacted” by the ban.
Margy Grant, CEO of the association, said in a statement that “private property rights must be restored.” R.W. Caldwell, a real estate and insurance firm based in the Tampa area, is also a plaintiff.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa, cites examples of tenants who have not paid rent, including one who owes nearly $4,400 for five months of unpaid rent.
“Those damages multiply as a landlord’s number of affected units increases,” the complaint alleges. The overall losses from the eviction moratorium “experienced by Florida’s landlords may easily reach and exceed tens of millions of dollars,” according to the suit.
In addition to the CDC and its director, Rochelle Walensky, named defendants include Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The eviction moratorium has prevented many tenants from being evicted, especially in a landlord friendly state such as Florida, where the governor’s ban on evictions and foreclosures expired in October.
Landlords across the country have sued over the legality of the moratorium, arguing that there is no federal relief for property owners who are on the hook for property taxes, insurance, mortgage payments and more. In Miami-Dade County, a group of landlords and condominium associations sued the county and Mayor Daniella Levine Cava in March, arguing the moratorium is too broad.
This month, a federal judge in the District of Columbia wrote in an opinion that the CDC lacks the legal authority to ban evictions.
The bans have protected millions from eviction across the U.S. amid the pandemic. Florida has roughly 2.7 million rental units averaging $1,200 a month in rent, according to the lawsuit. Pre-pandemic evictions resumed last year in Miami-Dade County.
“For more than a year, we have endured the COVID-19 pandemic and heard from struggling property owners, many who have gone without any assistance or rent relief under the eviction moratorium. In many cases, leases have expired and units cannot be re-rented,” Grant said in her statement.
The Florida Realtors and R.W. Caldwell allege that the CDC exceeded Congress’ grant of authority, among other alleged violations.
The lawsuit refers to the CDC as the “landlord-in-chief,” as well as to “draconian penalties” the health agency has called for against those who violate the moratorium. Fines range from $100,000 to more than $250,000.
The plaintiffs are seeking judgments against all defendants, attorneys fees and other costs, and relief. They are also seeking a declaration that the moratorium does not protect someone from being evicted if their lease has expired.
“Florida’s landlords need and deserve relief from the eviction moratorium’s terrorizing terms,” the complaint states.