Landlord groups ask U.S. judge to toss out new COVID-19 eviction ban

WASHINGTON, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Landlord groups late Wednesday asked a U.S. judge in Washington to immediately lift a new eviction moratorium that was put in place Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), saying the new order was "unlawful".

The Alabama Association of Realtors and others said in an emergency filing the CDC issued the new order "for nakedly political reasons - to ease the political pressure, shift the blame to the courts for ending the moratorium, and use litigation delays to achieve a policy objective."

The groups won a ruling from U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich in May declaring that the CDC's eviction ban was unlawful, but an appeals court blocked an effort by the Alabama landlord group and others to enforce the decision.

In June, a divided Supreme Court agreed to let the CDC moratorium remain in effect after the CDC announced it would allow the ban to expire on July 31.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued a concurring opinion saying in his view extending the CDC moratorium past July 31 would need "clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation)."

Under pressure from President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress, the CDC reversed course on Tuesday and issued a slightly narrower eviction ban, replacing the nationwide moratorium that expired Saturday at midnight after Congress failed to approve an extension.

The White House had repeatedly said previously before Tuesday's order it did not believe it had legal authority to extend eviction protections.

The White House did not immediately comment. A CDC spokeswoman declined to comment.

The new 60-day ban protects millions of renters from eviction and covers counties with substantial or high COVID-19 transmission rates. The ban currently applies to about 82% of U.S. counties and more than 90% of the population.

Lawyers for the landlord groups in asking Judge Friedrich to overturn the new CDC moratorium noted Biden on Tuesday said "the courts ... made it clear that the existing moratorium was not constitutional; it wouldn't stand."

Biden said the administration was moving forward in part because "by the time it gets litigated, it will probably give some additional time" to get more than $40 billion in rental relief approved by Congress distributed to renters and landlords.

More than 15 million people in 6.5 million U.S. households are currently behind on rental payments, according to a study by the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, collectively owing more than $20 billion to landlords.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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