Courts in Virginia are allowed to resume evictions unrelated to nonpayment of rent. (Courtesy of VCU News Service)
Courts in Virginia are allowed to resume evictions unrelated to nonpayment of rent. (Courtesy of VCU News Service)

A new order issued by the state Supreme Court could put thousands of Virginia residents at risk of losing their homes during the pandemic.

The order, released earlier this week by Judge Donald Lemons, allows the state’s courts to resume hearings for evictions on June 29, the day after a temporary stay expires.

A second order permits courts to immediately resume hearing evictions unrelated to nonpayment of rent, such as if a tenant breaches the terms of their lease.

Although Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam had requested a halt on evictions for most of June, the state began preparing a new rent relief program — that’s yet to be implemented — to help tenants who lost income during the public health crisis.

Advocates are now rushing to find ways to delay evictions for Virginians at immediate risk of homelessness. In doing so, some are continuing to encourage local sheriffs to delay issuing writs of eviction in areas with high COVID-19 rates.
Meanwhile, with the judicial order allowing courts to resume evictions as early as Monday that could impact hundreds of residents, Virginia’s General Assembly allowed tenants to seek a 60-day eviction continuance if they appear in court and prove they lost their income due to the pandemic.

Northam Announces Next Big Step in Va. Reopening

After months of closures and partial reinstatements, Virginia’s businesses are starting to get back to pre-COVID-19 levels of operations. Phase 3 – which began on July – allows entertainment venues to open their doors and raises capacity rates for other industries like retail establishments and salons.”Thanks to Virginians pulling together over the last four months, our key health metrics are trending in the right direction, and every region of the Commonwealth is on track to enter Phase Three of our “‪#ForwardVirginia,” Northam said in a tweet.

The biggest difference between Phase 2 and Phase 3 is the variety of businesses that will be allowed to operate. While the emphasis is on getting retailers open again, the governor reminds residents to take precautions.
“Our Phase Three guidelines will help Virginia families and businesses plan for what the next stage of easing public health restrictions will look like in our Commonwealth. While we may not have the same spike in infections that many states are seeing right now, Virginians need to remain cautious and do the things that we know reduce transmission: wear a face covering, maintain physical distance, and stay home if you are high-risk or experience COVID-19 symptoms. This virus is still with us, and we must continue to adapt our lives around it and ensure we are keeping our vulnerable communities safe.”

Newly-opened businesses opening at 50 percent capacity (up to 1,000 people) will include entertainment venues like: amusement parks, escape rooms, movie theaters, skating rinks, zoos and aquariums, museums, botanic gardens, concert venues and private social clubs.

Business owners and staff must keep a regular cleaning schedule and have enhanced sanitation stations throughout high-touch areas. Things like cash registers, door handles, and dressing rooms will require constant disinfecting to meet the state’s stringent guidelines.

Face coverings remain mandatory during Phase 3 and the current mask mandate remains in full effect until it is lifted by an executive order from the governor’s office.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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