According to a Princeton University study, the state of Virginia has one of the highest eviction rates in the country.
Last week, Governor Ralph Northam signed a series of bills aimed at mitigating eviction, including a bill sponsored by Delegate Jennifer Caroll Foy of Virginia’s 2nd district. The bills were modeled off of recommendations made by the Virginia Housing Commission’s eviction work group.
In Virginia, Foy says a tenant late on their rent has within 12 months to pay the missed rent, along with any other fees. House Bill 1898 gives tenants two weeks of additional time to pay those fees, up to 48 hours before their writ of possession is scheduled.
“My bill helps those individuals who have an unexpected car repair they have to pay and that took away from them being able to pay all of their rent upfront and on time,” said Foy.
When asked why Virginia has such high eviction rates, Foy pinpointed two issues; the first being rising housing prices in pockets of Northern Virginia. “It’s becoming close to impossible,” said Foy. “You have, in some jurisdictions, like Arlington and Fairfax and Alexandria, where people are paying over half of their paycheck on housing alone.”
The work group also found that eviction is a biproduct of poverty, especially for women, women of color, and victims of domestic violence.
Before her work in Woodbridge, Foy provided legal aid in Petersburg, Virginia, where she says she heard a lot of cases of unlawful eviction that were successful because the victims didn’t know their rights. “We had instances of people complaining of leaks or an infestation of roaches, or the locks didn’t work,” said Foy. “And whenever they would make a complaint, the landlord would file eviction proceedings. Because it’s a civil matter you’re not necessarily entitled to a free attorney and people rarely give free legal advice. That’s the big disconnect.”
Foy says she’s thankful for the work group because it brought more attention to the needs of tenants in Virginia. “It made it so we were able to really talk about these things and put forth legislation that will address it to give tenants — if not equal footing, at least a leg up to challenge unlawful eviction,” said Foy.