NORFOLK, Va. — Protections to help people from being evicted during the COVID-19 pandemic are set to expire this week.
Effective July 1, landlords now can give tenants five days notice to pay overdue rent instead of 14.
Landlords with at least five properties had to provide tenants with payment plans if they were behind on rent, but that requirement is also now going away.
Virginia's Rent Relief Program is also in a new phase. The program said tenants could not be evicted for 45 days if they had submitted an application for the program. The program stopped accepting applications on May 15.
"RRP was created to provide temporary emergency rental assistance to ensure stable housing during the COVID-19 pandemic and was primarily funded by federal stimulus grants through the U.S. Department of Treasury. DHCD will close the application portal to new applicants due to the limited funding available and a recent surge in applications submitted," the website says.
In an FAQ page, state officials explained why the program is ending.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Norfolk City Council received a briefing from the Department of Neighborhood Services about the changes.
"Once an eviction is ordered and occurs, we shift from an eviction prevention crisis to a homelessness crisis," the presentation states.
Analysis from the RVA Eviction Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University shows evictions are down sharply compared to before the pandemic.
For example, in the first quarter of 2019, there were more than 3,000 eviction filings in Virginia Beach and more than 1,000 evictions. In the first quarter of 2022, there were 680 filings and 246 evictions.
"I think we are definitely on the brink of something that is going to be scary," said Angela York, the executive director of THRIVE Peninsula, an organization helping people who are struggling with money.
In the past six months, THRIVE Peninsula has received about 2,400 applications for assistance, which is higher than normal.
"People right now are really in a hard space with inflation costs, especially going up with gas prices and groceries. We all feel that every day."
Brandon Ballard, an attorney and Equal Works Justice Housing Fellow with Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia, says there are still some defenses for tenants, like paperwork landlords are required to give to tenants. If they don't, cases can be dismissed, but still he says he's already seeing an uptick in filings.
"This is going to have a dramatic effect on the system and a dramatic effect on our clients," he said. "I predict it's going to lead to a tremendous amount of filings."