Minimizing the Damage from Pandemic-related Evictions

Aug 28, 2020

With thousands of eviction cases sitting in Virginia’s courts and many more likely on the way, lawmakers are attempting to enact a suite of legislation that would prevent evictions or minimize the damage brought on in their wake.

Getting kicked out of a house is one part of an eviction. The bad rap that follows is another.

Delegate Joshua Cole says not being able to pay bills during a pandemic shouldn’t count against people trying to find a new home. "A lot of our people don’t have control over that. They’re losing their jobs, they’re losing work hours, they’re losing their homes. And it’s not something of negligence. It’s beyond their control."

Del. Joshua Cole
Credit House of Delegates

Cole is sponsoring legislation that would prohibit landlords from rejecting a potential tenant who didn’t make rent at a previous residence. If the bill becomes a law, it would apply only if non-payment occurred during, or for 30 days after, the COVID-19 state of emergency order.

Cole says he’s gotten pushback from landlords who say people might file frivolous lawsuits. That’s frivolous with scare quotes, he says.  "Many people who are losing their homes or evicted because of COVID issues right about now, they probably cannot afford lawyers to go to court to pay lawyer’s fees and do all of this for a ‘frivolous’ lawsuit. "

As it’s currently written, the bill would allow victims to recover damages as well as attorney’s fees.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.