Jun 30, 2022 - News

Virginia's eviction protections are over

Illustration of a switch with a house icon, shifting from on to off.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Virginia's rent relief program is out of money, and pandemic-era eviction protections are expiring at the end of the day.

The big picture: Virginia, once host to some of the top evicting cities in the country, transformed itself into a model for relief during the pandemic.

  • Eviction filings have dropped more than 350% since the beginning of the pandemic, according to researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Why it matters: Renter-friendly policies are ending at a time when housing has never been more expensive, and housing advocates worry about what comes next.

What they're saying: "I expect the dockets to start to explode in August and September," Christie Marra, the director of housing policy at the Virginia Poverty Law Center, tells Axios.

What's happening: The state's rent relief program stopped accepting new applications last month after distributing more than $745 million in aid.

  • And as of July 1, a requirement extending the notice landlords must give before filing an eviction lawsuit from five to 14 days expires.
  • Landlords will also no longer be required to help tenants apply for aid and other financial resources before pursuing eviction.
  • "That is all the big things that made a difference," Martin Wegbreit, the director of litigation at the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, tells Axios. "We're not keeping anything."

Between the lines: Housing advocates had hoped eviction protections would be extended or made permanent, but prospects dimmed after Republicans regained the House of Delegates and executive mansion.

  • House Republicans rejected most proposals for new tenant protections.
  • And Gov. Glenn Youngkin vetoed two bills that found bipartisan support, including legislation aimed at making it easier for local governments to rein in slumlords.
  • Youngkin called the measure "unnecessary and duplicative" in his official communications to the General Assembly.

Context: Rent in the metro area has increased 12% since last year, and affordable housing nonprofits say they've been swamped with calls.

Zoom in: Evictions are already picking up in the Richmond area.

  • The new owners of a Henrico County apartment complex, the Pointe at River City, filed eviction lawsuits against more than 230 tenants this month, according to online court records.

Of note: Limited federal eviction protections still apply, but only to certain properties that benefit from federal housing programs or were purchased with federally backed mortgages.

  • On that basis, legal aid attorneys say they expect to stave off mass evictions at the Pointe at River City, arguing the tenants were entitled to a 30-day nonpayment notice.
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