A federal judge in Ohio has ruled that federal regulators overstepped their authority in ordering a national moratorium on rental evictions after the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

U.S. District Court Judge Philip Calabrese ruled in favor Wednesday of a group of property owners who argued in October that the ban, ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was an overreach.

Calabrese said in his 31-page decision that the halt on evictions exceeded the CDC’s authority provided under the Public Health Service Act.

Pacific Legal Foundation, arguing that landlords “deserve to be paid,” defended the judge’s ruling.

“The decision makes clear that federal agencies can’t exercise power Congress has not given them,” Pacific Legal Foundation Senior Attorney Steve Simpson said in a statement. “Now our clients no longer have to provide housing for free.”

The CDC ordered the ban last September and it was extended through March. It cited COVID-19 as a “historic threat to public health” and said evictions increased transmission risks. The order covers renters who make “best efforts” to make timely payments and have suffered “substantial loss of household income” due to the pandemic.

Calabrese stopped short of granting an injunction to stop the CDC from enforcing the moratorium, but renters advocates expressed concern.

“This order could immediately result in a flood of evictions of struggling renters resulting in increased spread of, and potentially deaths from, COVID-19,” National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diana Yentel told CNBC.

“The [Department of Justice] should immediately appeal and request a stay on the ruling.”

The coalition also called on the Biden administration to extend the eviction ban beyond March.

Last month, a federal judge in Texas also ruled that the moratorium is unconstitutional. The Justice Department has said it will appeal that decision.

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