Hundreds of Richmond Renters Get a Crash Course on Legal Rights

Monday, August 8th, 2022

Consumer Advocacy Director Dana Wiggins talks with Pointe resident Donald Garrett, a disabled 69-year-old who has lived at the apartment complex for more than a decade. If he hadn’t shown up to court or sought legal assistance, he could have been out on the streets within days.

A Community Education and Engagement Specialist with VPLC’s Housing Advocacy team recently learned of emerging problems at the Pointe at River City apartment complex in Eastern Henrico County. After hearing about some of the issues facing tenants, the advocacy team spent a Friday afternoon combing through records at Henrico General District court.

They discovered that more than 200 residents at the apartment complex were scheduled to appear at the courthouse, beginning with some on the docket the very next Monday morning.

Considering the June 30th expiration of the state’s eviction moratorium, there is a rise of eviction cases. Throughout the pandemic, these enhanced tenant protections helped thousands of Virginians remain in their homes. Many residents at the Pointe now facing eviction though say they are not behind on their rent and were never even notified of their upcoming eviction hearings.

With so many residents about to become homeless, VPLC’s Housing Advocacy team quickly organized a community meeting with Pointe at River City tenants and spent the sweltering summer weekend canvassing the complex. The team was able to advise more than 100 tenants using VPLC’s “Know Your Rights” pamphlets and connected residents with additional legal resources including the Eviction Legal Helpline.

VPLC staff member distributes literature at apartment complex.

VPLC Community Education & Engagement Specialist Denise Thomas-Brown armed with legal information for renters.

“It’s a violation of tenants’ rights. This is a property that was purchased back in January using a federally backed mortgage and as such, the federal CARES Act requires the landlord to give residents a written 30-day lease termination notice,” explained Laura Dobbs, a VPLC housing attorney.

“In addition to the CARES Act, under temporary state eviction protections, landlords who filed for eviction before July 1 are required to give tenants information about the Virginia Rent Relief Program, apply for assistance on their behalf, and wait 45 days for the rental application to be processed. Yet, many of the residents at Pointe at River City have had rent relief applications pending for months because the paperwork was not completed on the property management side.”

The housing team’s long hours and outreach efforts led to many tenants showing up in court, to the surprise of the landlord. Thanks to community education, all eviction cases from the Pointe at River City have now been postponed and tenants understand their rights under Virginia law.  The VPLC team continues working with residents on other housing concerns and checking the status of their rent relief applications.

You can watch some of the local news coverage of the issue here and here. 

Legal helpline phone 833-663-8428

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