The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked part of an eviction moratorium in New York that had been put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Kathleen Bergin, professor of law at Cornell Law School, is an expert in disaster and constitutional law. She says the ruling could result in higher numbers of renting being at risk of homelessness.

"The ruling puts more renters at risk of homelessness, even though the law protects them from eviction. The Supreme Court took issue with part of the law that allowed tenants to declare economic hardship without submitting documented proof to back that claim.  But the New York legislature rightly understood that families most at risk of eviction often don't have access to financial documents like pay stubs and bank statements, especially those who work under the table, pay rent with money orders, or live without a bank account. Allowing them to declare economic hardship under oath without the added documentation provided an important reprieve against the threat of eviction - though only a temporary one.  New York's eviction moratorium ends on August 31, at which point landlords can move to evict tenants, while pursuing claims for back rent or damage." 

"It's hard to square Justice Kavanaugh's position in the New York case, with the decision he issued in June answering a challenge to the CDC's eviction moratorium. In the CDC case, Justice Kavanaugh found that the CDC lacks congressional authority to issue a nation-wide eviction moratorium, but nonetheless allowed the moratorium to take hold given the hardships at issue, and because the federal moratorium was set to expire within the month. Those same issues are at play in New York, where the state eviction moratorium expires at the end of August, mooting any dispute about the types of evidence tenants facing eviction would be allowed to submit."

"We don't want people taking advantage of a program they're not eligible for, but a far bigger problem is the vast number of people who do qualify for help, but are wrongly rejected. Following Hurricane Maria, FEMA denied housing assistance to tens of thousands in Puerto Rico who couldn't produce a formal deed of ownership, including homeowners who inherited property from a deceased family member, or through other lawful means. Legal advocates worked with FEMA to ease the application process, but by then countless hurricane survivors gave up or got lost in the bureaucracy. These same concerns apply when it comes to eviction moratoriums and other forms of relief during the coronavirus. We need to get life-saving help to people who need it, and who qualify for it, without rejecting them because of an issue with paper-work."