Charlottesville-based lawyer discusses fighting evictions, new assistance from Congress

Charlottesville-based lawyer discusses fighting evictions, new assistance from Congress

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - With state and federal governments taking action, more people are expected to keep the roof over their head a little while longer. But, many people are still facing evictions, and that has attorneys working hard through the holiday season.

Usually, the week between Christmas and the New Year is a time for Carrie Klosko, a lawyer with the Charlottesville-based Legal Aid Justice Center, to close up cases and do other admin work. But this year, she’s tackling more eviction cases.

“It’s a big problem,” Klosko said. “It’s a higher volume than normal. I think that’s about all I can say.”

Evictions have been a problem since before the pandemic, but it certainly has only accelerated. In Charlottesville and Albemarle County, 76 eviction hearings are already scheduled for January, according to court case listings for both Charlottesville and Albemarle County General District Courts.

“Our local judges are pretty good, so that’s the good news,” Klosko said. “The bad news is that there are plenty of loopholes in the legislation which have been exploited.”

Starting Jan. 1, state restrictions on eviction begin to loosen. Landlords have to tell tenants about Virginia’s rent relief program, but they can move forward with eviction if aid is denied.

“The tenants’ protection from eviction is contingent on the tenants’ ability to actually access rent relief, not just apply for it,” she said.

That’s where Klosko says new legislation from Congress can help.

“[The new COVID relief bill] provides 25 billion dollars - like billion with a ‘B’ - in rent relief protections,” Klosko said. “That money is going to be distributed to the states and the states are going to decide how to allocate it to the various localities.”

Though it’s helpful, she doesn’t believe it goes far enough. The eviction moratorium Congress approved lasts until the end of January.

“We hope it will give the [Biden] administration a chance to put something else together to extend eviction protection even further than that.”

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