Eviction protections are available to you as Virginia courts reopen

Photo: Courtesy of MGN/Tony Magpantay
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RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — On Monday, May 18, courts across most of Virginia reopened for business, though with many restrictions still in place.

However, as Virginia moves through Phase 1 of the reopening plan and courts begin handing more cases again, many people remain unemployed and dealing with financial impacts from businesses that remain closed due to the pandemic. And that's left a lot of people worried that evictions which were put on hold by the Supreme Court of Virginia's judicial emergency, which expired on Sunday, may begin being processed now and push people out of their homes in the middle of the crisis.

In Governor Ralph Northam's COVID-19 briefing on Monday, he addressed that situation, acknowledging that some eviction cases that had been temporarily halted would now be moving forward.

While he said he's not taking any specific new action to stop eviction cases or defer the need for people to go to court to submit financial documents, he highlighted a number of new resources, including recently passed laws, that he said would help protect Virginians from eviction and support people who have lost their job or income.

On Tuesday, the governor's office released a breakdown of those resources they say are available to the public.

Online resources and guidance

They include StayHomeVirginia.com, a new website that offers guidance on working with landlords, financial institutions, and other organizations to use eviction and foreclosure protections during the pandemic. It includes resources for private mortgage holders, multifamily complexes, and tenants who may be affected.

“This public health crisis has created unprecedented housing challenges, regardless of whether you rent or own a home,” said Governor Northam. “Right now, many Virginians are struggling to make next month’s rent or mortgage payments amid a loss in wages due to the pandemic. These resources will help Virginians get the information they need to make decisions, and ensure they have access to a safe, stable, and affordable place to live.”

According to the governor, the website was developed in partnership with the Virginia Housing Development Authority, which is Virginia's housing financing agency.

Mortgage deferrals and nonprofit housing organization support

The VHDA also committed $12 million to support nonprofit housing organizations in their effort to deliver services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Northam says the funding will assist more than 200 nonprofit housing entities across Virginia.

His administration also says they've worked with VHDA to provide a three-month mortgage deferral to anyone who can show economic hardship from COVID-19's effects.

Landlords who have had their mortgage deferred through that system are required to pass the deferral on to their tenants.

Two bills were also recently approved by the General Assembly during their April 22 reconvened session and signed by Gov. Northam to become law.

Late fees capped

House Bill 1420 caps late fees on rent at 10 percent of the periodic rent or 10 percent of the remaining balance due: whichever is lesser. The new law is designed to prevent cascading late fees, allow charges only on the amount due, and set a maximum late fee percentage, which previously did not exist in Virginia.

Evictions and foreclosures delayed if you can prove economic hardship

House Bill 340 delays rental evictions or mortgage foreclosures for anyone not currently covered under the protections offered through the federal CARES Act or state and local protections. Under that law, a tenant may receive a 60-day continuance of an eviction proceeding from a court if they appear in court and provide written evidence that they are not receiving payments or wages due to the State of Emergency declared by Governor Northam. Additionally, homeowners or landlords that rent one, four, or multifamily units in the Commonwealth can pause a foreclosure proceeding for 30 days if the individual provides their lender with written evidence showing a loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.