Virginia Poverty Law Center raises concerns as eviction cases resume

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RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC) wants Governor Ralph Northam to issue an executive order to temporarily stop all evictions in the state.

Earlier this month, Virginia began the reopening process, and some courts started hearing non-essential cases. That means hundreds of eviction cases picked up again, causing concerns for housing advocates.

Last Wednesday, the non-profit sent a letter to Governor Ralph Northam. The letter urges the governor to temporarily stop evictions for all renters until September 1, or until the federal eviction moratorium provided by the CARES Act ends.

However, in the letter VPLC explains the CARES Act protects “fewer than half of all renters in the state.” Advocates say “the worst is yet to come,” in terms of evictions, especially since so many people are out of work.

In April, Governor Northam signed a law that allowed courts to delay evictions for up to two months if the tenant and landlord go to court, and the tenant proves they are unemployed due to COVID-19.

Christine Marra, the VPLC Director of Housing Agency, says many people are not showing up in court due to coronavirus concerns. As a result, in some cases, a judge moves forward with an eviction.

“Those folks that did not appear last Monday in court could be evicted sometime this week. So, that is the problem. We think it is a great piece of legislation.”

She adds, “It can only help, once it is safe for people to actually go to the courthouse. It’s really a timing issue.”

Local Delegates Marcia Price, Don Scott and Clinton Jenkins all signed on in support of the changes.

Marra said mass evictions over the next couple of months could increase the spread of COVID-19. “We are worried about the impact of people not being able to access shelter, especially for people who might be positive for the coronavirus, but asymptomatic.”

“For people that are tenants, the immediate public health crisis is only phase one of the crisis. Phase two is going to be dealing with the fact that people do not have money to pay the rent and they are about to be evicted. It’s pretty complicated,” said Marra.

Marra suggests if you are unable to pay your rent, the best thing you can do is try to work out a payment agreement with your landlord.

She adds, the Governor’s Office will review the letter and make a decision in the next few days.

Governor Northam suggests residents visit StayHomeVirginia.com for resources to navigate housing programs.


10 On Your Side’s Kiahnna Patterson reached out to all of the courts in the seven cities, to see how they are handling eviction cases or “unlawful detainer” cases.

Information from local courts

Hampton
Barbara Fagley, the Hampton clerk of court, said all “unlawful detainer warrant cases” were continued depending on the plaintiff’s request.

Chesapeake
The Chesapeake Civil Court clerk supervisor says cases resumed May 18.

Williamsburg
Karen Snyder, Williamsburg and James City County civil court clerk, explained half of the “unlawful detainer warrant” cases were continued. Starting May 18, cases scheduled before the pandemic resumed.

Virginia Beach
David O’Dell, Virginia Beach clerk of court, said unlawful detainer cases will be heard after June 8.
“However this is subject to change based on any future orders issued by the Supreme Court of Virginia or the Chief Judge of this court.”

Portsmouth
Eviction cases are scheduled to resume June 8, according to the Portsmouth Civil Courts Office.

Newport News
Karen Routten, Newport News clerk, says eviction cases will resume June 10.

All of the courts tell WAVY.com it will be complying with the CARES Act.


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