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Eviction cases back on hold until Sept. 7

The Virginia Supreme Court recently approved extending the moratorium on evictions — preventing courts from issuing writs of eviction to tenants who have struggled to pay rent due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The moratorium, effective Monday, Aug. 10, will be extended until Monday, Sept. 7, according to the Virginia Supreme Court decision issued Friday, Aug. 7.

The extension comes shortly after courts in Prince Edward, Cumberland and Buckingham resumed hearing eviction cases in the area. 

Area nonprofits are providing support for families and are offering resources before eviction cases go to court.

According to the Virginia Supreme Court decision, while writs of evictions are suspended if the cause is related to rent payment, the moratorium does not apply for unlawful detainer cases unrelated to struggles to pay rent.

General district courts in the Heart of Virginia had recently resumed hearing eviction cases after a temporary pause on hearing and enforcing eviction cases as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Buckingham County Clerk of General District Court, Dana Lynn Franklin, said in a Tuesday, Aug. 4 interview that the county court started to hear eviction cases in court Friday, July 31. This was before the moratorium extension was approved by the Virginia Supreme Court a week later.

Franklin said the court considered a total of seven cases on July 31 related to unlawful detainers.

Unlawful detainer is the term for an eviction lawsuit.

Franklin said of the seven cases, five cases were dismissed. However, in two of the seven cases, the landlords were granted possession of the properties.

Franklin estimated that the last unlawful detainer case the court considered was before the pandemic began.

The Cumberland Clerk of General District Court, Jennifer May Clayton, said in a Tuesday, Aug. 11 interview that the court started hearing unlawful detainer cases on Thursday, July 30. Clayton said the court heard seven unlawful detainer cases. Of the seven cases, one case was moved to another date, four were dismissed, and in two cases, landlords were granted possession. For two of the cases, there were different plaintiffs, but the same defendant.

In Prince Edward, Clerk of General District Court Danielle W. Bagley said in a Tuesday interview that the court resumed hearing unlawful detainer cases in July, though estimated the court only heard a few cases.

“If the unlawful detainer is claiming there is rent owed, and the landlord wishes to obtain the past due rent as a part of the judgment, then a writ of possession cannot be issued,” Bagley said. “If the landlord only wants possession back, without pursuing any money, then a writ can be issued.”

Major David Wilmoth of the Prince Edward County Sheriff’s Office said the court issues writs of eviction, and the sheriff’s office executes them. Wilmoth estimated that the sheriff’s office has executed 36 writs of eviction in the county since January 1. He said the sheriff’s office did not execute writs in May, June or July, and only one the first week in August.

Wilmoth said residents can make a motion to the General District Court to stay, or temporarily halt, an eviction execution.

Area organizations are providing resources for families and landlords navigating rental payments during the pandemic.

Christin Jackson of STEPS said the organization has received requests from tenants who need assistance or who may be in danger of an eviction lawsuit.

Jackson said STEPS negotiates with tenants and landlords to come to an agreement before a case goes to court.

STEPS has supported tenants in the area through the Virginia Rental and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP), which went into effect June 29.

Jackson said STEPS has helped prevent 33 families from being evicted since July 1 while serving people from Amelia, Buckingham, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway and Prince Edward counties.

To learn more about the RMRP, visit steps-inc.org or call (434) 315-5909, ext. 215.

To learn more about tenant rights, visit the Virginia Legal Aid Society website at vlas.org or call the Farmville office at (434) 392-8108.

A collection of resources for individuals and families during the pandemic is available at farmvillecares.org.