RICHMOND, Va. -- Attorneys throughout the state working to help Virginians at risk of eviction stay in their homes say that the task just got a little taller.
Starting this week in Richmond, eviction lawsuits filled the court dockets by the hundreds.
“This week it’s something like more than five hundred cases in the courts," attorney Janae Craddock said.
Members of nonprofit group RISC expected it would happen. Pastor Ralph Hodge said the organization has been following the housing crisis for a while. Most recently, the group asked Mayor Stoney to commit $10 million per year to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to help families find housing to fit their budget and avoid eviction.
“We’ve had this situation even before COVID. We were number two in the country for evictions and we may end up being number one at this rate. I’m confident that today a lot of rent didn’t get paid. So there are 500 evictions today and next week there could be 700 and then 1,000 after that. So, it’s bad,” Hodge added.
Craddock, the Housing Outreach attorney for the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, said that because eviction lawsuits are moving forward, the most important advice she can give to tenants is to show up to their court date and reach out to agencies like the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society and Housing Opportunities Made Equal.
“That can be the difference between you getting put out of your home and you being able to fix whatever problem has gone on—and helping you to stay,” Craddock explained.
She said tenants whose income has been impacted by COVID 19 should definitely report that they have reached out to the judge and submit written proof.
In those cases, recent House Bill 340 provides another protection, a 60-day continuance, which Craddock fears many people don't know about.
“During that time period, it doesn’t waive rent or stop rent from accruing. The idea is that during this period you will be able to get connected to resources or maybe you are gainfully employed now. Maybe you were out because you had COVID and now are back at work. It gives you an opportunity to catch up."
Mayor Stoney told CBS 6 that he is committed to increasing the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to ten million dollars per year.
He has also reached out to Governor Northam and the courts expressing support for continuing an eviction moratorium for the duration of the pandemic. The city of Richmond has also allocated $14 million in CARES ACT funding for eviction diversion, rent, and mortgage relief.
Tenants can call the eviction hotline at 1-833-663-8428.