Eviction Protections Extend For Some People Living In Hotels
Virginians living in hotels or motels for more than 90 consecutive days are still exempt from evictions, thanks to an extended emergency moratorium on eviction cases.
In response to the continuing coronavirus outbreak, the Virginia Supreme Court has issued another mandate halting non-essential court and eviction proceedings until at least May 17. An earlier court order issued in March was supposed to expire on April 26.
The mandate allows landlords to still file lawsuits to begin the eviction process for tenants who do not pay rent. But landlords cannot receive a court order authorizing eviction.
Under state law, people living in hotels or motels for more than 90 days qualify as tenants. Therefore, they also currently have eviction protections if they can no longer afford their rooms due to financial struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHRO has previously reported some hotels and motels are violating the law by locking people out.
People living in a motel for fewer than 91 days have no eviction protections, unless they have a lease with the motel that recognizes them as a tenant.
Christine Marra, director of housing advocacy at the Virginia Poverty Law Center, recommends that anyone struggling to pay for their room try to negotiate a payment plan with the hotel.
“They’re probably paying something like $300 a week,” Marra said. “They can say to the landlord, ‘Look, I can pay you $100 a week. And as long as I pay $100 a week until I get a new job, you won’t kick me out.”
If the hotel still ignores the law, anyone who has lived in a hotel for more than 90 days can file an emergency court petition for relief. Marra suggested calling the Virginia Poverty Law Center’s eviction helpline for assistance.
Many people residing in hotel rooms usually cannot live in apartments because they have poor credit or prior evictions on their records. If forced out of a hotel, they have nowhere else to live, Marra said.
Other options for shelter have been limited amid the coronavirus outbreak. Some shelters have reached capacity and others have closed, further limiting availability. Virginia has allocated more funding to helping provide homeless people with shelter.
Shirley Brackett, director of crisis response for ForKids Inc. — which provides homeless services to families — helps manage a Hampton Roads crisis hotline. She said compared to April, the hotline has recently received fewer calls from people on the verge of losing their hotel rooms.
Some hotel residents are benefiting from unemployment payments and a $1,200 payment as part of the federal stimulus package. But Brackett expects calls to increase again as the coronavirus outbreak continues to keep people unemployed.
“If they have car payments and other bills that they have to juggle, there’s going to be breaking points for some people who are going to be forced to make tough decisions again,” Bracket said.
Anyone living in hotel or motel in need of legal assistance can call the eviction helpline at 833-NO-EVICT.