Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Virginia Housing Advocates Upset with Vetoes of Tenant Protection Bills

Before the pandemic, evictions in Virginia peaked at almost 16,000 statewide. (Adobe Stock)

RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has vetoed several bills intended to do more to address the rights of renters in the Commonwealth.

Along with protecting tenants from negligent landlords, the legislation would have given local governments more power to hold slumlords accountable for the living conditions of their properties.

Housing rights advocates are disappointed, and they noted since pandemic protections against evictions have ended, they are already rising again.

Christie Marra, director of housing advocacy at the Virginia Poverty Law Center, said it is no secret what would have kept them from rising higher.

“Let’s give people who are only a month behind on rent a chance to catch up before they can be sued,” Marra urged. “Let’s give people an extra nine days at the beginning of the process so they can get another paycheck and pay their rent and late fees before they’re taken to court.”

The governor’s reasons for vetoing the bills range from not including amendments he felt would bolster the legislation, to creating an “unbalanced legal environment.” He also felt some of the protections are unnecessary.

Marra countered providing funds for more affordable housing and other options will be needed to ensure housing stability in Virginia.

Some housing legislation was successful this year, including a bill expunging eviction cases which have been resolved from a person’s record. It goes into effect July 1.

Marra emphasized it should help people avoid being tripped up by third-party tenant screening companies when applying for housing. She pointed out just filing an eviction can have negative effects.

“Then you’ve got situations where people have a defense but they know if they go to court, they can’t go to work, they’re going to lose their job,” Marra observed. “We still have a pretty high default rate in these cases. People are being forced to choose, ‘Do I miss my court date and just hope for the best? Or do I go to court and hope I don’t get fired?'”

She added eviction cases in the state can take two to four months to resolve. Marra is confident the failed bills this year will return in future legislative sessions.

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