Eviction Moratorium Left Many Small Landlords In Dire Straits

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on August 26 against the Biden administration’s extension of a nationwide evictions moratorium through administrative action by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi immediately spoke up for Washington progressives by calling the ruling “cruel” and “immoral” as it “ripped away” protections for renters who would otherwise be subject to eviction proceedings. Of course, Pelosi and her cohort leave small landlords out of the equation when discussing the COVID pandemic’s impact.

A majority of the Supreme Court noted that many landlords had limited financial resources. The court found that many landlords are at risk of “irreparable harm” by depriving rental income and the right to retake possession of their property. The court added that even though the moratorium might be “temporary,” there is no way of knowing there will ever be a realistic chance of full recovery after the crisis has passed.

One small landlord is Brandie LaCasse. She is a single mother and a veteran who faces economic ruin because tenants refuse to leave her property or pay rent. The moratorium allowed her tenants to get more than $23,000 in arrears. While LaCasse is unlikely to collect any back rent or damages, she has been forced to live with friends and even out of her car.

Almost half of the country’s 48 million residential rental units are in buildings with four or fewer units. Individuals own more than 41 percent of all units. Individuals own over 73 percent of the buildings with four or fewer units. The Brookings Institution has reported that about a third of the individuals who own rental units are part of moderate or low-income families.

Progressives also wholly miss the implication that the harm done to small landlords has on the overall availability of affordable housing. As small landlords are forced to sell their properties or see them foreclosed on by lenders, corporations and banks increasingly become the owners of rental units. Rent inevitably goes up, or small units are demolished to make room for more profitable uses.

The entire eviction moratorium story is yet another compelling case study about the unintended outcomes that result when progressive lawmakers act impulsively to give benefits of some kind to prospective voters. Whether at the federal, state, or municipal levels, the visible and invisible expenses are frequently overlooked. When the outcome of short-sighted destructive legislation results in worse outcomes for ordinary and disadvantaged Americans, the blame is easy to lay somewhere else.