RICHMOND, Va. -- Since March of 2020, tenants facing eviction because of COVID-19 hardships did not have to leave their homes due to an eviction moratorium put into place by Virginia Supreme Court. That moratorium was extended several times and now will officially end on June 30, 2022.
With this protection ending, experts believe its impacts will be substantial.
"The eviction tsunami that we have been fearing for more than two years is certainly coming," said Martin Wegbreit with the Virginia Legal Aid Society.
He said local courts have already seen a big increase in eviction lawsuits.
"We just got statistics showing that in the four weeks between mid-June and mid-July, in Richmond, Petersburg, Charlottesville and the surrounding cities and counties there are 2,453 cases, eviction cases on the docket during those four weeks," he explained.
Wegbreit said as eviction cases increase, it's important for tenants to remember their rights.
"No tenant in Virginia has to move just because the landlord says so," Wegbreit said. "It's a five-step process. Notice lawsuit, judgment, eviction paper, and a sheriff's eviction. There is no alternative."
By notice, he means a proper written notice and the lawsuit is then given after the notice period ends. The judgment would then come from the court and the eviction notice given will state the tenant has to leave.
Following that, only the sheriff's office can execute the eviction.
Wegbreit and Jean Johnson with a local non-profit said the end of the moratorium means the beginning of substantial increases in our homeless population.
"There's going to be so many families displaced because of the protection being gone," said Johnson.
Johnson founded the non-profit Richmond, VA Homeless Intervention Program or RVA H.I.P.
"When the pandemic hit back in March 2020, we knew that you know, people with the loss of jobs were going to need help," Johnson said.
Since then, the group has been helping those who are experiencing homelessness or may be on the verge of it.
"People are going to need not just housing, they're going to need food, I mean it living in your car, you're going to need gas," she explained. "Everyone, we have to get in and do our part, each other helping each other, it's going to be our family members, it's gonna be a co-worker, it's going to be someone we know."
If you are in need of help from RVA H.I.P or looking to volunteer, you can call (804) 941-0149 or visit their website.
Virginia Legal Aid Society also encourages renters with questions about tenants' rights to contact their office at (804) 648-1012.