Virginia lifts eviction moratorium, advocates seek extension

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A moratorium on evictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic has been lifted by the Supreme Court of Virginia, paving the way for eviction proceedings to resume next week.
The ban was originally put in place in March and was extended earlier this month. It is set to expire Sunday.
An order issued by the state’s high court Monday said courts may resume hearing eviction cases on June 29.
Tenant advocates said thousands of families that are struggling financially because of COVID-19 could be affected.
“When you look at the unemployment numbers, those are astronomical, so I imagine that a lot of landlords may not have filed because courts were closed to evictions, and now they may step forward to do so,” said Elaine Poon, a managing attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center.
Poon said advocates are calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to issue an executive order to prevent landlords from moving forward on eviction proceedings in court.
“We’re not asking for an indefinite moratorium. We’re asking for enough time to establish a robust rent relief program — one that is sufficiently funded and addresses all of the needs of Virginia,” Poon said.
Northam asked earlier this month that the eviction ban be extended to give his administration time to announce a rent relief program.
Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said Tuesday that the administration is in the process of finalizing the program and plans to roll it out on June 29.
On Monday, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said the city plans to use $6 million of the $20.1 million it received from the state through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to provide rental assistance and to fund an eviction diversion program.
“From both a human services and a public health perspective, it is paramount that Richmond residents do not face housing insecurity during this pandemic,” Stoney said in a news release.
Stoney’s office said approximately 1,900 households in Richmond face a pending eviction. He said those cases will move forward if the eviction moratorium is not extended. Richmond has one of the highest eviction rates in the country.
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