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VA High Court Rejects Northam's Request To Pause Evictions Through October

The Supreme Court of Virginia rejected Governor Ralph Northam’s request to extend a statewide ban on residential evictions that ends today. 

In its ruling last week, Virginia’s highest court said there’s no need to act on the statewide ban because there is already a federal ban set in place by the Centers for Disease Control. 

But the governor and other Democrats are skeptical that the federal order is sufficient. Under the CDC order, tenants have to prove that they are unable to pay rent because of lost income; they would have to show they made efforts to pay at least partially toward the rent; and the protection applies only to people who make less than $100,000 a year. 

The court halted residential evictions a month ago as a result of COVID-19 concerns.

In a letter to Chief Justice Donald Lemons last week, Northam made the case against evicting residents saying these are unprecedented times. 

“We will only conquer the public health crisis when families remain securely housed and are not displaced,” Northam said. 

The RVA Eviction Lab projects there will be 26,000 eviction cases filed between now and the end of this year. In a study released last month, researchers said nearly 300,000 households across the commonwealth reported they had little or no confidence that they would be able to pay their rent in September. 

Marty Wegbriet with Central Virginia Legal Aid Society told VPM business analyst Dan Rosenthal Monday, that’s a big problem during a pandemic. 

“Obviously not all of those people will be turned out of their houses, but if enough of them are, then they will just continue to spread the coronavirus because they won’t be able to socially distance,” Wegbreit said. “Again, you can’t shelter in place without a place to shelter.”

PatrickMcCloud, CEO of the Virginia Apartment Management Association said the federal ban goes too far. 

“The major issue behind this order that property owners have a problem with is that it becomes, in our opinion, an unconstitutional taking,” McCloud said, “because the federal government is denying access to a property without compensation.”

Northam said he had hoped the high court would hold off on the evictions in order to give the general assembly enough time to come up with a remedy for families facing eviction.

 

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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