Eviction Spotlight: Being forced out after filing a Tenant’s Assertion based on unlivable conditions

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

We often hear that tenants are the problem when it comes to evictions and that landlord harassment only comes from a few “bad apples,” but we witness a pattern of landlords taking advantage of low-income Virginians through our eviction helpline. The Eviction Spotlight series seeks to shed light on these stories.

Tara*, a section 8 voucher holder in Henrico, filed a Tenant’s Assertion based on unlivable conditions in her apartment and paid two months’ worth of rent into the court. At trial, the judge awarded her the two months’ rent and terminated the lease, telling her to vacate in two weeks. Tara asked for more time and told the judge that finding housing that will accept her voucher will likely take more time, but the judge refused to extend the deadline. Instead of filing an Unlawful Detainer, the landlord had the clerk of court issue a writ of possession on the Tenant’s Assertion based on the judge’s “vacate by” decision.

VPLC referred the case to Central Virginia Legal Aid Society (CVLAS) who filed a motion to quash the writ because it wasn’t based on a judgment for possession from an Unlawful Detainer. Even though the Tenant’s Assertion statute gives the judge broad discretion in choosing a remedy, it explicitly anticipates that landlord’s need to bring an Unlawful Detainer if they want a judgment and writ of possession, but the judge denied the motion. Tara had to move out of her apartment and put her belongings in storage before moving into the new apartment she had found. (Luckily, the procedural posture did not put her section 8 voucher at risk.)

*Name has been changed to protect the client’s identity

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