NORFOLK, Va. — As thousands of residents across Hampton Roads get ready to pay their next month's rent on Friday, those struggling to make ends meet are getting hit with another obstacle.
Pam Shine with the Virginia Beach Housing and Neighborhood Prevention department said because the COVID pandemic eviction protections expired, tenants are more at risk of losing their homes.
Effective July 1, landlords can now give tenants a five-day notice to pay overdue rent. Originally, the state also required landlords with at least five properties to provide tenants falling behind on rent with a payment plan. That protection is now going away.
This change is leaving many residents asking what comes next, but Shine said there are ways to get help before it gets worse with Virginia Beach's Housing Resource Center.
"We do have an ongoing prevention program where we assist folks who have fallen into that scenario, so anyone who has fallen behind on rent, they can get connected to a screener," said Shine. "If you meet the eligibility requirements for financial assistance, we move to that point where we try to get you where you are not facing eviction."
Aarian Daniels with the Norfolk Eviction Prevention Center said it's just another hurdle her team has to jump over to help people.
"If you have a heart to serve, you have a heart to want to help," said Daniels. "What we plan to do through the Eviction Prevention Center is we will start to reach out to property managers and landlords to identify tenants at risk of eviction and provide resources."
She said in addition to calling her program to receive assistance, the best thing you can do is be prepared.
"When you come up to a financial problem, try to find out as many resources that are available to you. Be proactive, try to be proactive as possible instead of waiting until it's too late."
Some lawmakers say they expect a wave of evictions this summer. U.S. Senator Tim Kaine said part of the solution comes down to having enough affordable housing.
"Bottom line is, inadequate supply of affordable housing for low and moderate-income families and the likely results if we don't do some things at the local, state and federal level is going to be a significant uptick in evictions and a significant uptick in homelessness," Kaine said over the phone.
He said it starts with affordable housing and implementing new laws to lower the risk of eviction, such as his bill for the Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2022.
"A lot of low-income folks who are eligible for the Section 8 voucher program, but then there are landlords who say they don't accept these vouchers, so I have a proposal that would mend the Federal Fair Housing Act to make it illegal to discriminate anyone based on the source of their income," Kaine said.
Daniels and Shine said the best thing tenants can do right now is to fully understand their current lease agreement. This will help tenants determine if their landlord is taking any illegal action when giving an eviction notice.
Virginia's Rent Relief Program, which prevents landlords from evicting tenants for at least 45 days, closed to new applications in May.
Those already in the program may still receive assistance.