Hundreds of tenants facing eviction from Henrico apartment complex next month
Renters in 237 units are facing eviction from The Pointe at River City apartment complex in Henrico County next month.
The pending eviction cases came before the Henrico General District Court less than a month after state-level protections for tenants — created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — expired in the commonwealth. Those protections required landlords to give renters notice before they begin eviction proceedings, denied landlords the right to charge late fees and required them to give tenants at least 30 days notice before their lease is terminated.
Don Garrett has lived at The Pointe for the past 13 years. He’s 69 years old, and his only source of income is social security. He told VPM News that he and several other tenants face homelessness if they are evicted.
“If they put us out, we don’t have anywhere to go,” Garrett said.
The apartment complex, located at the corner of Nine Mile Road and South Laburnum Avenue, is owned by AP 11 North LLC, a company incorporated in Delaware. The complex is managed by Aion Management, a national property management company based in Philadelphia that oversees 17,000 apartments, primarily in the mid-Atlantic region.
Brian Lowe, president and CEO of BLM Public Relations, which represents Aion Management, confirmed that some residents at the property have “received legal notices … to appear regarding their outstanding balance.” These filings begin the process of evictions in Virginia, but Lowe said tenants still have time to avoid eviction.
“To clarify, they are not eviction notices. This procedure is in accordance with Virginia’s landlord [and] tenant law,” Lowe said.
While many of the unlawful detainer hearings against tenants at the complex were scheduled to be heard this week, all of the cases have been continued to August. They were postponed when representatives of some tenants successfully argued that they weren’t given adequate notice before their hearing date.
Even as state-level eviction policies expired on June 31, some federal protections remain in place for renters whose landlords have received federal funding through the CARES Act or if they have received mortgage assistance through the Federal Housing Administration or Fannie Mae and Feddie Mac, a federally backed mortgage company.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the property in Henrico has received funding from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Tenants in court
Before tenants appeared in court last month, many were advised by the Virginia Poverty Law Center, which trains lawyers on advocacy issues like housing rights. Laura Dobbs, a housing attorney at the VPLC, said tenants successfully persuaded a judge to continue their cases because their landlord didn’t comply with federal regulations.
“They didn't provide a 30-day notice … . So, the judge ordered a briefing on those issues and admonished this landlord for having filed so many cases at one time and not notifying tenants of the continuance,” Dobbs said.
Garrett and another resident of the apartment complex, Chastity Carter, said they only received notice 14 days before their hearings were scheduled. Carter, who has two young sons with disabilities, said receiving that letter was devastating.
“This is crazy to do this to people,” said Carter, who’s lived at the complex for three years. “This is almost the whole neighborhood you're trying to put out.”
More than a quarter of the units at The Pointe had unlawful detainers filed against them.
They join a growing number of renters in danger of eviction nationwide. According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in late January and early February, about 58% of households reported fearing the possibility of eviction within two months. In December 2021, only 28% of households reported fearing eviction.
These evictions are also happening as rents soar across the commonwealth. According to a report by Virginia Realtors, the average cost of rent statewide increased by 11.3% between the first quarter of 2021 and 2022. In Richmond, according to the study, the average cost of rent is now $1,314.
“There's just not enough housing for everyone. Which means you have landlords increasing the rent by astronomical amounts, and just fewer empty units for people to try to rent,” Dobbs said. “For people who are getting evicted, it's going to be that much harder for them, because they're now going to have an eviction on their record. And many landlords refuse to rent to tenants who have any sort of eviction attached to their past.”
Garrett and Carter both said they don’t have the money to find new housing, especially because signing a new lease requires additional funds for application fees and a security deposit.
“It will be very, very hard for me because I have checked around. And I've been told, ‘You don't have enough income,’” Carter said.
The two tenants plan on contesting the unlawful detainers filed against them. They both said they’re caught up on rental payments and plan to prove it in court.
Dobbs says the VPLC has also received several reports that the apartment’s management has refused to coordinate with residents interested in applying for assistance from the Virginia Rental Relief Program. The window for applying for that aid closed May 15, more than a month before the unlawful detainers against tenants at The Pointe were filed.
“[They] waited for that state program to close its portal to new applications, thinking that they could just go into court and evict people,” Dobbs said.
According to Lowe, the management company plans to litigate cases against tenants, regardless of their previously having qualified for rental assistance.
“We are aware that rent relief programs are currently experiencing backlogs and other challenges,” Lowe said. “We encourage residents to contact Gov2Go directly for a status update on their application and to contact our management team to discuss additional short-term solutions.”
The next hearing in Carter and Garrett’s eviction cases are scheduled to take place Aug. 8.