by James C. Sherlock
I sought and received from the Virginia Apartment Management Association a statement on Monday’s Virginia’s Supreme Court order IN RE: FIFTH ORDER MODIFYING AND EXTENDING DECLARATION OF JUDICIAL EMERGENCY IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 EMERGENCY.
It took only an hour for Patrick McCloud, the CEO of VAMA, to generate the response quoted below. It is published with his permission. He could have done the same thing for the Governor or the Supreme Court, had they asked. Neither did.
Please note this is not a legal brief, but neither was the Governor’s letter. If asked for a legal brief, the association’s lawyers would inevitably raised the issues that have been discussed on this blog.
The Virginia Apartment Management Association believes the Governor’s request and the Court’s resulting Order placing a moratorium on evictions and denying access to the courts for unlawful detainer actions demonstrates a misguided understanding of how the U.S. Housing Market and the court system works.
Contrary to what groups like the Virginia Poverty Law center want people to believe, truth is very few of the cases on the current court dockets have anything to do with COVID-19. Those cases deal with Jan, Feb, and March non-payment of rent issues.
Further, the moratorium didn’t just stop severely outstanding non-payment of rent cases from moving forward. It also stopped evictions that were filed due to health, life and safety issues.
Evictions related criminal activity were paused. Evictions related to brandishing a fire arm were placed on hold as were evictions related violence on a property.
So in addition to the economic damage the Order is causing by stopping evictions that have nothing to do with COVID, it also deprives responsible property owners and their residents from taking the actions needed to maintain safe and stable housing.
No one likes evictions. No one wants evictions. This is why you see rental housing providers working with residents time and time again throughout this crisis to create payment plans which address the resident’s needs. Housing providers are in the business of providing housing, not taking it away.
This is precisely why, back in 2019, VAMA worked with housing advocates to design and pass Virginia’s Eviction Diversion Pilot Program (Va. Code § 55.1-1260).
In a perfect world evictions would never be needed. However, as unpleasant as evictions are they are a necessary element to providing and maintaining safe and affordable housing in a consumer driven market economy.