“In 2016, about 1 in 9 renter households in Richmond were issued eviction judgments. Judgments issued in majority white neighborhoods were far less common”.
Candace Williams experienced the threat, the judgment and the sheriff’s visit when she fell behind on her rent in 2016. She was making $178 a week at a convenience store, a job she could reach without a car. Some of that money went to the space heaters and foam insulation she needed for the holes in the walls on the cheapest home she could find for her family.
She brought photos of the neglected repairs on her phone to court. When she learned she couldn’t bring in the phone, she hid it under a trash can outside. When she arrived, late, to the courtroom, a default judgment had already been entered against her.
“I definitely understand my fault in it,” Ms. Williams, 43, said. “But they don’t allow you any opportunity to make a mistake.
The process is meant to be efficient, said Chip Dicks, a lawyer in Richmond who works on property management issues and has written provisions in the state’s landlord-tenant law. Efficiency is good public policy, he argues: Neither the landlord nor the tenant benefits from a drawn-out process that would burden renters with even more unpaid rent, late fees and attorney costs. And landlords can’t provide housing if they can’t pay their mortgages, he added.
“The landlords are the victims because they’re the ones not being paid when they’re supposed to be paid,” Mr. Dicks said. “What happens when you don’t pay your car payment? They come and take your car. What happens when you don’t pay your mortgage payment? They come and foreclose on your house.”
Poor tenants here, however, are not ensured access to legal aid or shielded from steep rent increases, as in some cities. And they have no right, as tenants in some states do, to deduct their own repair costs from the rent.”
Writer Emily Badger then tweeted the following:
The consequences of eviction then pile up for the whole city: Housing instability compounds medical problems, disrupts classrooms, separates families, foils social workers trying to track residents who receive benefits. I was struck by how many people I met in Richmond who interpreted eviction through the lens of Virginia history. This is a state founded on an agrarian economy, they told me. Power accrues to whoever owns the property.
Check out these pictures of Richmond taken by photographer Matt Eich as he visited Richmond to cover our high rate of evictions for The New York Times.
But, Patrick McCloud, who heads up the Virginia Apartment Management Association, claims the data cited by the New York Times is misleading.
“They cited the unlawful detainer action as their ‘eviction’ as opposed to the actual eviction, which is the resident moving out of the unit and the sheriff showing up to move them out of the unit,” McCloud said.
According to data compiled by his office using data from the Richmond Sheriff’s Office, Richmond’s eviction rate in 2017 was just 3.7 percent.
“Richmond’s high rate of eviction is trapping the poor in perpetual poverty. The obstacles of general district court prevent poor defendants from effectively defending themselves”. (@LeadersCCH- Leaders of the New South- Community Council for Housing)
What can YOU do? Keep informed. A neighbor, Natalie A, recommends following these projects and organizations:
There’s also simple but profound things like Laundry Love RVA that can make the expenses of everyday life easier to bear.