Blue Ridge Legal Services helps nearly 400 households obtain $1.5M in rental assistance

Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 11:33 AM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Nearly two weeks have passed since protections ended for tenants in Virginia. Now, landlords only have to provide five days’ notice before evicting a tenant, as opposed to the 14 that were in place since the beginning of the pandemic.

It’s also been two months since the closure of the application portal for the state’s Rent Relief Program which helped staff at Blue Ridge Legal Services in Harrisonburg aid nearly 400 Valley households obtain $1.5M in rental assistance and avoid eviction over the last year.

“We have 70 something applications still pending, but 328 have been approved, almost one and a half million dollars in rent relief has gone to those households or gone to their landlords more specifically,” BRLS Executive Director John Whitfield said.

Whitfield and staff at BRLS say although this was an achievement, the ‘eviction tsunami’ that’s been predicted to sweep the Commonwealth due to these protections ending is hitting the Valley.

At Harrisonburg Rockingham General District Court there are 156 eviction hearings (unlawful detainers) scheduled for the month of July alone, and although relief funding is still available to those pending applicants, staff are working with fewer resources for new cases that come in.

“We’re still getting hit with lots of requests for assistance now, it’s the most requested legal problem that we’re getting these days. Whether we’ll have the same results now when we don’t have the same tools that we had a month ago remains to be seen,” Whitfield said.

He explains thoroughly that examining whether the landlord has followed the law along with what current protections the individual tenant has are key factors in these cases.

According to BRLS, on average over the last eight years evictions in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County range between 80 to 90 per month, with the lowest annual total of evictions happening in 2021 with 486.

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