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Virginia Supreme Court freezes evictions through Labor Day

virginia capitol
Virginia State Capitol (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM)

Virginia’s Supreme Court is freezing all evictions for unpaid rent through Labor Day. In Virginia, 9,441 eviction hearings were scheduled through September 18 — 1,440 of which in the City of Richmond. 

The state’s highest court amended its judicial emergency declaration on Friday to include the statewide ban, citing public health risks and “The ease with which the COVID-19 virus can spread, [and] the risks associated with traveling to and appearing in the courthouse.”

During the moratorium, court hearings are paused, and sheriffs’ departments will not be able to carry out evictions. Only four out of seven state Supreme Court justices signed the order approving the added protections. 

“The inability of many citizens to access the courts remotely or to hire lawyers who can argue on their behalf, may ‘substantially endanger’ or ‘impede’ the ‘ability of [tenants] to avail themselves of the court,’ the order read. 

The higher court’s Chief Justice Don Lemons was among those who disapproved of freezing the eviction process. 

“The solution properly lies with the legislative branch and its responsibility to provide sufficient appropriations to fund rent relief efforts and with the executive branch to effectively administer such programs,” Lemons said. “The government should not expect one group of property owners who lease their property to tenants to finance their unfortunate circumstances.” 

The Virginia Apartment Management Association also voiced its disappointment with the state Supreme Court decision. In a statement on Friday, the association’s CEO Patrick McCloud said the hold on eviction proceedings is not helping the current housing crisis — only further delaying it. 

“The inconvenient truth here is that this threatens the ability of apartment communities to maintain regular operations, let alone continue taking the financial risks of working with tenants who cannot pay,” McCloud said. “It also risks damage to already-shrinking local budgets by devaluing multifamily properties, and therefore their tax evaluations.”

The month-long freeze goes into effect on Monday. It comes at Gov. Ralph Northam’s request, in an effort to buy the state more time to implement its $50 million, federally-funded rent relief program that launched in July.

Editor's Note: This article was updated with a statement from the Virginia Apartment Manager's Association.

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