As illegal evictions persist in Virginia, members of the General Assembly are moving forward on legislation that would provide more legal recourse for tenants and increase penalties for wrongdoers.
It’s called a ‘self-help eviction’ and in Virginia, it’s against the law. Basically, the term describes what happens when a landlord skips the legal process and drives out a tenant by making their rental unlivable.
"People have had copper pipes removed from beneath their home. I’ve seen water meters be removed," Sheba Williams testified Thursday. "Landlords have reported properties as abandoned and had utilities shut off with little to no warning."
Williams is with Nolef Turns, a Richmond-based nonprofit that’s provided rent relief since last March. She says she’s seen landlords displacing families unlawfully throughout the pandemic.
Williams is advocating for a bill from Charlottesville Delegate Sally Hudson that would speed up the hearing process in cases like these and make guilty parties pay their victims at least $5,000.
Joining Williams in support is Brian Gordon, who represents Virginia at the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington. "Responsible housing providers will never be impacted by this. This will only really affect those bad actors who go around the court process," Williams told legislators.
As the bill advances in the state legislature, lawmakers are preparing to deliberate additional measures designed to minimize evictions.