RICHMOND, Va. -- More than 2,000 families in Central Virginia will face eviction within the next month. Hundreds of hearings are happening nearly every week between now and the end of February, with about 900 in Richmond and 500 in Henrico.
It's a process Dikeisha Washington knows all too well after she was hit with an eviction notice at her former apartment complex in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom.
"I did think like, are me and my daughter going to be homeless? Like, what's next?" Washington asked.
Washington said she was approved for rent relief, set to cover about $13,000 in rent over a span of several months. But Washington said that money still hasn't hit her account, forcing her and her daughter out.
"Literally, I'd have to hit the lottery, or just, a miracle would have to come for me to pay that," Washington said.
Washington is not the only renter to go through this process.
"For most cases where the tenant was told the application was approved, the money did eventually come, but not in every single case," said Martin Wegbreit, Central Virginia's Legal Aid Society's Director of Litigation.
"It was mishandled particularly by the independent contractor, Gov2Go."
Wegbreit said still, despite the issues, it's hard for tenants to take a stand.
"There was no permanent statute for the rent relief program that gave tenants any type of legal rights. So, it was a program that, if you got in under the wire, you would get your rent paid for by the program, and if you didn't, even if you had an email that said, 'Approved,' there was no guarantee of payment and there was no enforceable legal right," Wegbreit said.
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According to data compiled by Central Virginia's Legal Aid Society, about 51% of Richmond residents are considered "rent burdened," meaning more than 30% of their monthly income is toward rent and utilities.
Wegbreit said he hopes Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney will address Richmond's low vacancy rate and rental rate increases, an additional layer to the end of COVID-era tenant protections and rent relief funds.
"I hope he speaks out about asking landlords to moderate their rent increases, to renew leases when at all possible, and to give tenants more time to pay their rent, rather than the unforgiving rush to judgment that the Virginia eviction process is. We will see this evening whether the mayor is up to the challenge," he said.
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