Update on Evictions During COVID-19 Outbreak
Wednesday, March 18th, 2020
Yesterday, we received a few responses to our COVID-19 update, telling us that some courts in Virginia are still proceeding with evictions despite the Virginia Supreme Court’s emergency order halting all non-essential and non-emergency court proceedings. VPLC and other legal aid advocates contacted the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Virginia Supreme Court and received the following confirmation: “While new petitions for evictions may be filed, it is anticipated that eviction proceedings will be suspended for the duration of the order as they are not emergency or mission critical proceedings.”
This is a stressful time for everyone, particularly those who now have reduced or no income. As Attorney General Herring said, “It would be an absolute outrage for Virginians to be evicted from their homes during this emergency, especially as we are asking them to practice social distancing and stay home to prevent further spread of COVID-19.” The temporary eviction suspension is especially important for hourly wage earners who are more likely to lose income and not be able to pay their rent because of business closures.
In partnership with the Virginia Housing Alliance, we have sent letters to housing providers in the state urging them to halt evictions during the coronavirus crisis. We are still learning of updates as the situation around the pandemic continues to change and will keep you informed as soon as we have new information. In the meantime, we’ve prepared a guide to your rights as a tenant during the COVID-19 outbreak in both English and Spanish. We encourage you to share this guide and contact us for any questions.
It’s important to remember that Virginia does not allow landlords to use “self-help.” This means it is unlawful for landlords to change locks or cut off essential utilities like heat and water without a court order.
If your landlord uses self-help, you can file a petition for relief from unlawful exclusion. You should also call our Eviction Helpline or the statewide legal aid phone number, which will connect you to your local legal aid.
Eviction Helpline: 1-833-NoEvict
Statewide Legal Aid Number: 1-866-LEGLAID
Stay safe and take care,
Virginia Poverty Law Center