Virginia court grants request to halt evictions for another month

Virginia court grants request to halt evictions for another month
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Virginia's Supreme Court voted Friday to grant Gov. Ralph Northam's (D) request to halt evictions for another month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"As the ongoing Congressional stalemate leaves Virginians without federal housing protection, this is a critical step towards keeping families safely in their homes," Northam tweeted Friday about its ruling.

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The governor previously urged the court in a letter to suspend evictions through early September after state and federal measures against evictions expired last month, The Washington Post reported.

In a divisive ruling, four of the court's seven justices voted to extend the moratorium through Sept. 7.

The four justices – William Mims, S. Bernard Goodwyn, Cleo Powell and Stephen McCullough – underscored the "judicial emergency" brought on by the pandemic, saying the risks surrounding the coronavirus would prove difficult for tenants to "avail themselves of the court."

One justice who objected the ruling, Donald Lemons, argued, "The solution most assuredly does not lie with the judicial branch of government."

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"The government should not expect one group of property owners who lease their property to tenants to finance their unfortunate circumstances. If there is to be a subsidy, it is properly the responsibility of the legislative and executive branches," Lemons wrote in a dissent joined by justices D. Arthur Kelsey and Teresa Chafin.

In a separate dissent, Kelsey wrote that the governor's extended moratorium would not grant landlords due process and property rights, adding that the pandemic does not meet the threshold of what is a "judicial emergency" according to state law.

So far, the government in Virginia has invested $50 million in federal CARES Act money for a rent-relief program, aiding 2,200 households and processing 940 payments to landlords, The Post reported.

The Virginia General Assembly will examine the matter again when it reconvenes for a special session on Aug. 18.