The Bulletin

Virginia gets low marks for pandemic eviction protections

By: - April 21, 2020 2:12 pm

A police officer walks into the John Marshall Courthouse in downtown Richmond. (Photo by Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Evictions are frozen in Virginia until the state court system reopens, possibly as soon as the end of the month.

But how do the state’s efforts to help keep people in their homes amid an unprecedented pandemic compare to other states?

Not especially well, according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, which reviewed policies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Virginia came in 31, noting that while evictions have been paused, there’s nothing from stopping landlords from initiating the process by demanding tenants pay and filing eviction lawsuits that will be heard when courts reopen.

“Without further action and supportive measures, Virginia could see a surge of evictions immediately following the pandemic,” the researchers wrote.

Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, Nevada and Minnesota scored highest, with researchers citing bans on late fees, grace periods to pay rent and temporary orders preventing landlords from threatening and filing eviction lawsuits.

Virginia’s ranking could improve tomorrow if lawmakers agree to two legislative amendments proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam. One would give tenants an extra two months to catch up on rent after courts reopen. Another would immediately enact a 10 percent cap on late fees.

For Virginians left out of federal bailout, Northam proposes 60-day eviction grace period

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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.