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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A federal judge in Memphis has cleared the way for local landlords to resume evictions.

On Monday, Judge Mark Norris ruled the government overstepped its bounds when it put evictions on hold last year. In his ruling, Norris said the government’s order is unenforceable in West Tennessee.

The landlords involved in the case own more than 5,000 rental units across the area.

The attorney, Josh Kahane, representing those landlords said this about the ruling:

“The Court’s ruling is both of national significance and fundamental importance. We are grateful to Judge Norris for his reasoned decision which puts an immediate end to the serious and unlawful infringement on constitutional standards and fundamentally protected rights. 

We are proud to have successfully defended the rights of owners – both big and small – and now call upon state and local government to take lawful efforts to help tenants remain in their homes during this uniquely challenging time and to ensure that the funds allocated under last week’s American Rescue Act are quickly and efficiently distributed to those most vulnerable and in need.”

Josh Kahane

The judge’s decision comes two weeks before the federal ban on evictions was set to expire.

That’s important because local advocates planned to use that time to work on applications submitted to the city’s eviction settlement fund. Of the thousands that applied since March 1, 800 people face immediate eviction.

“The fact they have continued to pursue it when the moratorium was set to end at the end of this month would indicate that their interest is in evicting,” Cindy Ettingoff/CEO, Memphis Area Legal Services, said.

Ettingoff says 68% of the people they’ve helped through that program had no issues paying rent before the pandemic but now struggle to do so after losing jobs.

“We are certainly advocating for people. We are there attempting to negotiate rent arrearage settlements,” Ettingoff said. “What that means is we’re just going to have to run a little faster and hope for the best truthfully.”

If you’re facing eviction contact Memphis Area Legal Services at (901) 544-1100. There’s a team of volunteer lawyers on hand to help you through this process.