’They don’t have to move’: Richmond evictions halted during judicial emergency

Richmond Judge Rules to Halt Evictions

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As the Commonwealth remains under a public health emergency, Richmond tenants will not have to worry about being evicted at least through April 6th.

“What people need to know, is that they don’t have to move, based on what the judge ruled today," explained Marty Wegbreit with the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society. "I think that is the key message we need to get out, because we know 2 out of 3 tenants that get a writ of eviction move before the sheriff arrives.”

Last week the Supreme Court of Virginia declared a judicial emergency suspending all non-essential, non-emergency proceedings, including new evictions, for 21 days.

The Central Virginia Legal Aid Society says in the declaration, it was not clear what would happen with previously served and scheduled evictions.

“They didn’t get down into what happens if a writ of eviction has been issued and received by the sheriff? What if a writ of eviction has been issued, received by the sheriff, served and scheduled? They didn’t get that far into the weeds,” explained Wegbreit.

Last Friday, Richmond Sheriff Antoinette Irving made the decision to halt evictions, she says for the safety of the public and deputies.

“We looked at the statistics out there and the increase in the amount of individuals being impacted by the virus, I made a decision we would not do any more evictions until further notice," Irving explained. “That last decision came down Friday in hopes we would go to court and a judge would put in place an order, to state an understanding of the Supreme Court of Virginia decision.”

Monday, Wegbreit along with fellow Attorney Palmer Heenan, presented two motions before a judge. They sought relief for a tenant that was set to be evicted Wednesday, they also sought relief for anyone in the city facing eviction through April 6th.

“Mass evictions, 150 or more out of their homes, put those families at risk, puts other families at risk and puts the deputies who would be engaged in evictions at risk," explained Palmer Heenan.

Sheriff Irving says her goal was to do the “humane and right thing," by halting evictions.

“We have taken our officers off the road. We’re in constant contact with the landlords, even though some of them feel they have been awarded possession of their property and can do their evictions,” said Irving. “In light of the Supreme Court and the Governor and Mayor--all the state of emergencies that are out there and the pandemic, we feel it is unlikely we will do an evictions until after April the 6th.”

Irving says they have stopped all paperwork to set new evictions from coming into their office.

“We will do the thing that needs to be done for the right of the people," she said.

Monday morning, a judge decided to grant a halt of eviction to the individual tenant whose case was presented.

“Judge Cann granted relief in the first case and said he would rule the same way in any other individual case brought before him. He also said he expected Sheriff Irving, who was in court, to follow - in all scheduled evictions - the relief he granted in the individual case. We believe it is unlikely there will be evictions in Richmond from now through April 6th,” The Central Virginia Legal Aid Society wrote on Facebook.

Wegbreit says CVLAS succeeded in giving Sheriff Irving the authority she has been searching for.. to not do any evictions under the authority of the Supreme Court of Virginia judicial emergency.”

Copyright 2020 WWBT. All rights reserved.