RICHMOND — Evictions are on the rise in Virginia after numerous protections provided by federal and state rental assistance programs ended.
According to the Richmond Eviction Lab, the number of renters in Virginia fearing eviction during the first quarter of 2022 was 58%, almost double from the fourth quarter of 2021.
Christie Marra, director of housing advocacy at the Virginia Poverty Law Center, said a “perfect storm of evictions” has been brewing for some time now. She pointed out tenants’ protections have practically evaporated over the last few months, but identified an important one remaining.
“The tenant still has what we call a right of redemption, which simply means that they have the right to pay everything they owe the landlord up until 48 hours before the sheriff comes, and they have to stop that eviction, in most cases,” Marra explained. “There are a few exceptions to that for tenants who rent from small mom-and-pop landlords.”
Numerous landlords have filed eviction cases to be prosecuted over what advocates said are unrealistic periods of time. Marra cites one apartment complex in Chesterfield called Rollingwood prosecuting 59 cases in one week. Another has 99 eviction cases to be prosecuted over a 10-day period. She does not want people to think it is about people unable to pay their rent, rather she charges there is a larger issue with evictions becoming part of a larger corporate landlord’s business model.
Though the numbers are rising, Marra feels elected officials at each level of government can take action to slow it down or stop it entirely. At a local level, she suggested having a right to legal counsel to provide tenants with more equal footing when fighting eviction cases. On a state level, she hopes to see some pandemic-era requirements return.
“We had, during the pandemic, a requirement that made landlords give tenants 14 days to pay late rent, between the time they get the notice that, ‘Hey, you didn’t pay your rent. Here’s what you owe. Here’s the rent, here’s the late fee. Please pay,’ and the time they can take them to court,” Marra recounted. “Five days is not enough time.”
More time allows people to get their next paycheck, which Marra feels will help people make late payments more quickly. Federally, she feels emergency rental assistance needs to be made available all the time, not just in times of great crisis.