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Despite VA Eviction Ban, Landlords Attempt Removals

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has banned evictions in the state until June 30, a response to the high unemployment rate in the pandemic, but it may not be deterring some property owners. (Adobe Stock)
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has banned evictions in the state until June 30, a response to the high unemployment rate in the pandemic, but it may not be deterring some property owners. (Adobe Stock)
June 17, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- Out-of-work renters across Virginia say they're receiving eviction notices, even though last week Gov. Ralph Northam banned evictions through the end of June.

The moratorium is a response to an unemployment rate that's ballooned to almost 11% in the pandemic. However, some landlords are sending misleading notices that scare people into thinking they could lose their homes in the middle of a health crisis, said Phil Storey, a housing-advocacy attorney for the Virginia Poverty Law Center. He said it isn't illegal in Virginia to start eviction paperwork, but many of his clients report that some rent collectors' recent tactics have crossed the line into bullying.

"I've been saying I feel like now when the courts are closed to eviction hearings," he said, "it's kind of like a golden age for illegal eviction tactics by landlords who don't want to have to wait and follow the rules."

Storey said one of his unemployed clients in the Shenandoah Valley recently had his belongings illegally thrown into the street because the landlord wanted to sell the house. He said another client lives in senior housing that has a federally backed mortgage. Under the CARES Act, this protects tenants from evictions until the end of July. But Story said she's already receiving inaccurate notices that say she's about to lose her right to be there.

"Especially with elderly folks, who don't understand what the legal processes are or what their rights are," he said, "it can be very traumatic to get a notice that you interpret to mean that you could be out on the street in a matter of a few days."

Renters facing eviction can contact the Virginia Poverty Law Center at vplc.org.

The Northam administration is working on a rent relief program for Virginians during the pandemic. As of 2016, Richmond had the second-highest eviction rate in the country, and five other Virginia cities were in the top 10, according to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. That data is online at evictionlab.org, and the Virginia Supreme Court eviction-moratorium decision is at vacourts.gov.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA