Eviction Spotlight: Getting evicted for criminal history related to untreated disabilities

Wednesday, May 8th, 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 many landlords taking advantage of low-income Virginians through our Eviction Legal Helpline. The Eviction Spotlight series seeks to shed light on these stories.

Linda* lives in apartments along Chamberlayne Avenue, part of the dwindling affordable rental housing in Richmond’s northside. A resident of over two years, Linda had a good tenancy record.

When a new property management company took ownership of the apartment, Linda learned that her lease would not be renewed due to past larceny-related criminal convictions that occurred when she was not under adequate medical care for her disabilities and on the psychiatric drugs which she is now prescribed.

VPLC worked with partnering attorney and board member Helen Hardiman to successfully convince the new management company to grant Linda a reasonable accommodation to overlook her criminal history because the convictions were directly attributable to her disabilities. We also shared the tenant screening criteria with Housing Opportunities Made Equal, as the criminal history requirements may have an unjustified disparate impact on black men. Their fair housing team is investigating.

Thanks to the existence of the Eviction Legal Helpline, Linda will be able to stay in her home, and we discovered a company-wide policy that may be negatively impacting a much broader population. While Linda’s case shows how impactful these resources can be, it also highlights the need for changes to the system.

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

VPLC and Virginia legal aid programs are working for stronger legal protections and better enforcement of the law that will benefit all Virginians. If you have questions or concerns around evictions in Virginia, call our Eviction Legal Helpline at 1-833-NoEvict. 

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