Attorney, activists ask for rent relief after court grants eviction moratorium

Attorney, activists ask for rent relief after court grants eviction moratorium
Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville (FILE) (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - After more than 15,000 eviction hearings statewide, the Virginia Supreme Court announced a new eviction moratorium on Friday. But some in the central Virginia community want more effective and permanent solutions.

The 4-to-3 ruling by the court was a relief to thousands of Virginians who have been hit hard economically by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a much-needed piece of news this morning to have that court order come down because I think people are just at their wit’s end,” said Elaine Poon, an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville.

More than 30 eviction hearings are scheduled for the next eight weeks in Charlottesville, and over 100 in Albemarle County.

“Residents in Virginia are desperate for some sort of relief,” Poon said. “And not having to worry about an eviction proceeding is what people need in this desperate time.”

But Friday’s decision from the high court only prevents the last step in the eviction process.

“And that’s the step where the sheriff can take that piece of paper that the General District Court issues, and ask you to leave or force you to leave,” Poon said.

Because these hearings are still ongoing, activists like Sarah Winstein-Hibbs, in addition to Poon, are asking Governor Northam and the General Assembly to work on a more comprehensive rent relief package during August’s special session.

“We need to fight as tenants and as renters, independent of the unjust legal system, we need to find a way to resist together and we need rent relief,” said Winstein-Hibbs, a member of the Charlottesville Democratic Socialists of America.

Poon says she wants the governor to sign “an expanded version of the Supreme Court order, basically saying that evictions cannot move forward until March, really, until the pandemic is calmed down.”

The Legal Aid Justice Center encourages residents to learn your rights, and know that the order does not stop eviction notices that were already written.

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