Legal aid anticipates wave of evictions with end of rent moratorium

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) – The federal moratorium on evictions will end on June 30 and specialist lawyers are preparing for further hearings.

Blue Ridge Legal Services in Harrisonburg is a non-profit organization that provides free legal assistance in civil matters to low-income residents of the Shenandoah Valley.

John Whitfield, executive director of Blue Ridge Legal Services, said he doesn’t expect the moratorium to be extended again, so his team is bracing for an increase in deportation requests and evictions at the end of this month.

Whitfield has been with the group for 40 years, but said this past year has certainly been unusual.

“It has been a crazy year in terms of law and procedures, courts and evictions. Things have changed from week to week, literally, ”Whitfield said.

“We are keeping cheat sheets on the best current defenses and what expired last month and what is coming next month,” he added.

Whitfield said this has been a confusing time for courts, landlords, tenants and legal staff.

He said the courts have interpreted the moratorium differently.

“Some judges said ‘Well you can’t give anything’, other judges said ‘Yes you can give something but we won’t hear it’, other judges said ‘Well yes, you can file something, we’ll do it listen to it, we’ll even enter a judgment for possession, but you can’t enforce that judgment. ”You can’t ask the sheriff to come over and kick someone out while the moratorium is not over, ”Whitfield said.

Whitfield said Harrisonburg courts averaged about 90 deportation requests per month. In 2020, deposits declined by about a third and in the first three months of 2021 they were only a third.

Time is running out on what remains of the moratorium and Whitfield expects things to pick up.

“On July 1 there could be a wave of sheriff evictions, enforcing the orders that have been enacted in the previous months,” Whitfield said.

He added that some owners simply did not file a case due to other temporary protections.

But Whitfield hopes to publicize the rent relief program in which tenants can apply for state aid.

“It’s a win-win. The landlord gets their money, the tenant stays there, but people have to take advantage, ”Whitfield said.

You can find more information about the rent relief program here.

Copyright 2021 WHSV. All rights reserved.

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Bernice Dyer

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