Eviction Spotlight: Helpline stops wrongful eviction for woman living in Central Virginia mobile home park

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

Janice* is a resident in a mobile home park in Central Virginia where she has lived for the past several years. She only had trouble paying rent once last year, and the landlord filed an Unlawful Detainer in the General District Court to evict her. Janice paid what she owed before the court date, known in the law as exercising her right of redemption, which should have resulted in her case being dismissed. So she was surprised to receive an eviction notice recently from the sheriff without any new court process, and she called the Eviction Legal Helpline for advice.

Helpline staff looked up the court records online for Janice and discovered that last year, instead of having her case dismissed after she paid what she owed, the landlord had the court give him a judgment for possession by default because she wasn’t present at the hearing. Janice sent the Helpline the sheriff’s eviction to review, and an attorney noticed that the writ of eviction—the order from the court asking the sheriff to schedule and carry out the eviction—was issued on July 9th. While that would have been proper under the law that was in effect until recently, a new law that took effect on July 1st of this year requires writs of eviction to be issued within 180 days of a judgment for possession. The court clerk had wrongly issued the writ on a judgment for possession that was too old to have Janice evicted.

The Helpline referred the case to the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society (CVLAS), which assigned it to one of its new Equal Justice Works Law Fellows recently hired to address the eviction crisis in Central Virginia. With the guidance of CVLAS’ seasoned staff, the new attorney successfully filed with the court to put an immediate hold on Janice’s eviction. At Janice’s formal hearing, the writ of eviction was permanently revoked.

Thankfully, because the Eviction Legal Helpline was able to identify the court’s clerical error and a legal aid attorney was available to represent her in court, Janice was able to avert a crisis that would have turned her life upside down.

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

At VPLC, 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. 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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