RICHMOND, Va. -- The Biden administration will allow a nationwide moratorium on evictions to expire Saturday, so what does that mean for thousands of renters in the Commonwealth who are behind on payments?
According to the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, Virginia currently has over $700 million in unspent renters relief funds, which is enough money to pay rent for 115,000 Virginians.
Martin Wegbreit, director of litigation for the Legal Aid Society, said the biggest issue right now is many renters don’t know about this program.
"Tenants need to know about it, and they need to apply for it," Wegbreit explained. "If they are having difficulty in the application, they need to reach out to a housing facilitator."
To apply, you need five pieces of documentation: a rental agreement which shows the names of the parties, how much the rent is and what the period of the rental is, a landlord tenant ledger showing how much money is owed and income documentation.
The landlord also has to supply a Virginia W-9, and the landlord and tenant have to sign the agreement for rent relief. The application is available here.
The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development has up to 45 days to process the application, but Wegbreit said that’s happening much faster -- and payment is usually distributed to the landlord within a matter of one or two weeks.
"We have never seen $1.1 billion come to Virginia to help landlords get paid in full and help tenants stay housed," noted Wegbreit. "We still have $700 million in unspent funds, and no tenant in Virginia should be evicted for non-payment of rent, until that last dollar has been spent."
Even if tenants can't pay their rent before Sunday, Wegbreit said it’s unlikely they'll be legally evicted.
"No one can legally be evicted until the landlord follows the court eviction process, which means the landlord has to give a proper notice," he said. "Wait the notice period, file eviction lawsuit, go to court, get a judgment of possession, wait the proper period get a writ of eviction, and then the sheriff and only the sheriff, can evict the tenant giving at least three days notice. So unless the landlord has gone through that entire process, and the tenant has actually received the writ of eviction from the sheriff's office saying when they will be evicted, no one's facing immediate eviction."
The Virginia Legal Aid Society notes most landlords are aware of the Rent Relief Program, and many have been filing on behalf of their tenants.
But Wegbreit said there have been some cases where landlords have not cooperated with the program.
"It's hard to imagine what that reason would be when the government is willing to pay thousands of dollars to you, and you can come out completely whole, it's hard to imagine why landlord would not want to cooperate with that," he said. "But if they don't, we're prepared to go to court to argue that they not only should, but that they legally must."