The administration’s legal maneuvering might have failed, but it bought some time for tenants threatened with eviction. In unusually candid remarks this month, President Biden said that was part of his calculus in deciding to proceed with the new moratorium, which was set to expire Oct. 3.
Congress declared a moratorium on evictions at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, but it lapsed in July 2020. The C.D.C. then issued a series of its own moratoriums, saying that they were justified by the need to address the pandemic and authorized by a 1944 law. People unable to pay rent, the agency said, should not be forced to crowd in with relatives or seek refuge in homeless shelters, spreading the virus.
The last moratorium — which was put in place by the C.D.C. in September and expired on July 31 after being extended several times by Congress and Mr. Biden — was effective at achieving its goal, reducing by about half the number of eviction cases that normally would have been filed since last fall, according to an analysis of filings by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.
But landlords have said that the moratoriums saddled them with billions of dollars in debt. The challengers in the current case — landlords, real estate companies and trade associations led by the Alabama Association of Realtors — argued that the moratorium was not authorized by the law the agency relied on, the Public Health Service Act of 1944.
That law, the challengers wrote, was concerned with quarantines and inspections to stop the spread of disease and did not bestow on the agency “the unqualified power to take any measure imaginable to stop the spread of communicable disease — whether eviction moratoria, worship limits, nationwide lockdowns, school closures or vaccine mandates.”
The C.D.C. responded that the moratorium was authorized by the 1944 law. Evictions would accelerate the spread of the coronavirus, the agency said, by forcing people “to move, often into close quarters in new shared housing settings with friends or family, or congregate settings such as homeless shelters.”
The moratorium, the administration told the justices, was broadly similar to quarantine. “It would be strange to hold that the government may combat infection by prohibiting the tenant from leaving his home,” its brief said, “but not by prohibiting the landlord from throwing him out.”