Judge won't pause eviction ban amid Tennessee landlord suit

Buildings at Hunter Oaks Apartments undergo renovations on Tuesday. Sept. 22, 2020, in Memphis, Tenn. Owners of the apartment complex are among seven landlords who manage or own more than 5,000 rental units and have filed a lawsuit claiming that a national eviction moratorium has not only placed them under unfair financial strain, but also infringed on their rights as property owners.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge will not block a nationwide eviction ban while Tennessee landlords pursue a legal challenge alleging the moratorium has infringed on their property rights and unfairly caused them financial harm.

U.S. District Judge Mark Norris denied the landlords' request to pause the sweeping eviction ban as their lawsuit makes its way through court. Instead, Norris said the landlords — all based in Memphis — hadn't proved they were suffering “irreparable harm” from the eviction ban.

“The fact is, despite plaintiffs’ creative framing, at bottom plaintiffs are likely to suffer monetary damages, not irreparable harm, and their bevy of constitutional claims do not change this conclusion,” Norris wrote in his decision released earlier this month. “Therefore, because plaintiffs have failed to establish the irreparable harm factor, the court need not consider the remaining preliminary injunction factors."

Property owners across the country have filed similar complaints seeking to overturn President Donald Trump’s directive, implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that broadly prevents evictions through the end of 2020. Most of those suits have been dismissed.

However, Norris held off from addressing the landlords’ allegations that the eviction ban violated their constitutional rights.

“The court has decided that such briefing is needed in order to fully consider the constitutional issues that remain,” Norris wrote.

Attorneys representing the seven landlords — who collectively manage or own more than 5,000 rental units — said the order was “very encouraging.”

“We are pleased that Judge Norris’ denial of the injunction was in no way based upon the underlying merits of the case and feel confident that the rights and liberties of owners across the nation will soon be vindicated,” said attorney Joshua Kahane.

The CDC’s directive, which took effect Sept. 4, is based on the agency’s broad powers to protect public health. The agency put it in the context of other historic, unprecedented and exceedingly rare government responses to the pandemic, and said stopping evictions is an effective way of preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

To be eligible for this protection, renters must earn $198,000 or less for couples filing jointly, or $99,000 for single filers; demonstrate that they’ve sought government help to pay the rent; declare that they can’t pay because of COVID-19 hardships, and affirm that they are likely to become homeless if evicted.

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