The Bulletin

Northam asks Va. Supreme Court to extend eviction moratorium again

By: - September 3, 2020 11:11 am

Gov. Ralph Northam speaks at a news conference in August. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Gov. Ralph Northam is once again asking the Supreme Court of Virginia to extend a temporary moratorium on evictions set to expire Monday, citing a later-than-expected end to the special legislative session and uncertainty about how the Trump administration’s recently announced federal moratorium will be interpreted.

“While my administration works with our federal counterparts to understand the implementation of the new CDC order, and while we continue to work with the General Assembly on protections that will enable more landlords and tenants to utilize rent relief funding, I write to seek additional time from this court,” he wrote in a letter dated Thursday.

Northam warned that nearly 3,000 households had eviction judgments entered against them between late June and early August and could face homelessness without an extension.

Lawmakers have been working on a compromise that would stop most evictions and require landlords to participate in a state rent relief program, which Northam’s administration recently changed to provide full reimbursement for unpaid rent.

Virginia lawmakers pursue compromise on eviction moratorium

The Trump administration announced on Tuesday it would temporarily halt residential evictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 infections. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin disclosed during a congressional hearing that the executive order would be issued. It runs through Dec. 31.

“I think you’ll be quite pleased with the impact that it will have,” Mnuchin told Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat who sits on the panel.

The order estimates that 30 to 40 million renters are at risk of eviction. “A wave of evictions on that scale would be unprecedented in modern times,” it says.

The halt was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.

It does not relieve people of obligations to pay rent or preclude the collection of fees, penalties or interest as the result of the failure to pay rent or make timely housing payments.

While landlord groups have warmed somewhat to the moratorium legislation advancing in Virginia, they have voiced strong opposition to Trump’s ban, calling it short sighted and unconstitutional.

Meanwhile tenant advocates have criticized Trump’s approach for allowing evictions for reasons other than non-payment of rent, which is also an ongoing point of debate in discussion around a legislative moratorium at the state level.

States Newsroom’s Washington bureau reporter Allison Stevens contributed to this report.

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.