‘What the owner is doing is illegal’: Legal expert challenging eviction notices at Grace Place Apartments

Published: May. 9, 2022 at 11:38 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - These days the thought that keeps folks like Thomas Moss awake in bed at night is whether he’ll still have a place to rest his head.

“It’s nervewracking and it’s stressful for a whole lot of us,” Moss said. “We’re trying to find out what’s going on.”

On April 29 Moss, like so many other residents at the Grace Place Apartments, was given a lease termination notice effective May 31.

“We’re just sitting around waiting to see what happens,” Moss said. ”They talk about we have to be out in like 30 days like we’re dogs or something.”

But Martin Wegbreit of Central Virginia Legal Aid says the eviction notices aren’t just inhumane, he claims they’re also illegal.

“It is shameful that the most vulnerable tenants that we practically have in the city of Richmond are being treated this way,” Wegbreit said. “What the owner is doing is illegal.”

Wegbreit says these residents likely have legal protections from eviction because Grace Place is considered a low-income tax property and as such the property owners made two binding agreements with the federal government:

  1. To keep Grace Place as a low-income property for the next 30 years.
  2. Tenants get to stay as long as they want.

Wegbreit says that the agreement was made back in 2001 therefore, those 30 years don’t run out until 2031.

“What that means is that tenants get to stay there as long as they want, provided they don’t do anything that’s good cause to end their tenancy or evict them,” Wegbreit said. “They have not done anything like that and the notices don’t say they’ve done anything like that.”

Even if Grace Place Apartments weren’t a low-income tax credit property, Wegbreit says no tenant in Virginia has to leave just because a landlord says so. It also requires a court order, because only a judge can order a tenant to leave and only a sheriff can force them to leave.

Wegbreit says the property is owned by a limited liability company called 400 East Grace Street LLC. He said at this time it is unknown who the face is behind 400 East Grace LLC. Although according to Richmond property records, the company is managed by Franklin Property Group.

Wegbreit says it’s unclear if the crumbling conditions of the once condemned apartments have anything to do with the eviction notices but he says he’s prepared to challenge the property managers Franklin Capital Group in court.

“If they want to proceed with this they’re going to have to file lawsuits in court and I will be there to defend them and I will be there to make them produce their reasons for why they want to not renew their leases and evict everybody,” Wegbreit said. Until then we can’t know the reasons... but once it’s in court we can force them to tell us the reasons.”

“Legal Aid says we don’t have to get out until we get a court notice,” Moss said.

Wegbreit says he’s currently representing six out of the 52 Grace Place households.

“I will represent any tenant in the Grace Place apartment who got that April 29th notice saying your lease will not be renewed you must vacate by May 31st, ” Wegbreit said. “My message to the managers is very simple. Read the law, understand the law and follow the law.”

NBC12 reached out to Franklin Captial Group, but at this time they have not responded to our requests for comment.

For more information and assistance, you can contact Martin Wegbreit, Esq., CVLAS, at 804-200-6045, or email Wegbreit at marty@cvlas.org.

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