Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority

Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority

Virginia renters vulnerable to eviction as state of emergency ends

The end of Virginia’s state of emergency could mean dire times for those who have been struggling to pay the bills.

Michelle Murillo WTOP News

“There were certain protections against eviction based on non-payment of rent that were tied to the state of emergency,” said Laura Dobbs, a housing attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center. “Now that that state of emergency has ended, so do certain protections.”

According to Dobbs, landlords can now take legal action to evict tenants for unpaid rent, even if that landlord is refusing to cooperate with the Virginia Rent Relief Program.

During the state of emergency, landlords were required to apply for relief on their tenant’s behalf, and wait a period of time for that application to be approved before moving forward with an eviction. They’re no longer required to do that and the court rosters are showing it.

“Looking at the court docket of these eviction cases — there’s so many that are coming up just in the month of July alone,” said Dobbs.

But she said there are still some protections in place in Virginia for those struggling to keep a roof over their head.

“If you lost income at any point during the pandemic and you’re getting sued for unpaid rent, for an eviction, you have the right to request a 60-day continuance of your eviction case,” Dobbs said. “This does not make your case go away. It simply gives you more time to catch up on rent, finding the money, applying for that rental assistance or finding new housing.”

But even that will not last forever, and is set to expire later this summer.

In addition to the state eviction continuance program, there is also the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium that has been extended through July 31, although the Biden administration has said that is the last time the moratorium will be extended.

“This CDC eviction moratorium is not automatic,” Dobbs said. “To get this protection against being evicted for unpaid rent, a tenant has to sign up and then give a copy of the CDC declaration to their landlord.”

She is hopeful we will soon see more funding from the American Rescue Plan being appropriated by the Virginia General Assembly during the special session.

“These eviction protections work,” Dobbs said. “If you are looking at the number of evictions that occurred, they increase every time one of these protections expires and drastically decrease every time one of these protections kick in.”

According to Dobbs, data from a Census Bureau survey showed that roughly 36% of Virginians feel they are at risk of foreclosure or eviction within the next two months.

“Unless we get this rental assistance out there as quickly as possible, we’re going to have a massive number of evictions as well as foreclosures for those owners who have been unable to keep up with mortgage payments,” she said.