Eviction Crisis in Virginia

Virginia has an Eviction Problem.

Source: RVA Eviction Lab: The Virginia Evictors Catalog


Virginia’s Eviction rates are double the national average.

In April 2018, Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond’s work made the front page of the New York Times when he released a dramatic dataset revealing staggering statistics about evictions. Richmond, Virginia was highlighted as a community experiencing an eviction crisis with eviction rates that are quadruple the national average.

The graph below demonstrates the difference between the rates of eviction in the United States, Virginia, and the City of Richmond. The eviction rate is the number of evictions per 100 renter homes in a given year.

In 2018, Virginia’s eviction rate was 14.9% (about 14.9 evictions filed for every 100 renter households) while the national average was 7.7%. From October 2022 to November 2023 there were 136,295 filings in Virginia. There are 466 eviction filings on an average day in Virginia.

Virginia had 5 of the top 10 highest eviction rates among large U.S. cities and 3 of the top 5 highest eviction rates among mid-size U.S. cities in 2016.

Cities in Virginia that made the top list of highest eviction rates in U.S. Cities.

Large U.S. cities:

  • #2 Richmond: 11.44%
  • #3 Hampton: 10.49%
  • #4 Newport News: 10.23%
  • #6 Norfolk: 8.65%
  • #10 Chesapeake: 7.9%

Mid-size U.S. cities:

  • #2 Petersburg: 17.56%
  • #4 Hopewell: 15.69%
  • #5 Portsmouth: 15.07%

Source: Eviction Lab. Princeton University. 2016


Evictions are on the rise now that emergency pandemic measures have expired.

Emergency measures enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic:

State Court moratorium

March 2020 – August 2020

60-day Continuance

April 2020 – August 2021

CDC Moratorium

September 2020 – August 2021

State eviction protections

November 2020 – June 2022

Evictions Hurt.

An eviction case – even one that doesn’t result in immediate displacement – can set off a series of collateral consequences. Evictions impact the family’s health, education, job performance, and future housing stability.

Evictions can affect access to:

  • Future Housing
  • Jobs
  • Schools
  • Healthcare
  • Food & Groceries
  • Safe Neighborhoods
  • Transportation
  • Childcare
  • Banks

The emotional stress can impact:

  • Child’s Grades
  • Job Performance
  • Overall Health

The financial burden can force people to:

  • Lose Employment
  • Lose Childcare
  • Use Payday Lenders
  • Rely on Credit Cards

The eviction crisis hits families with children the hardest. Nationally, households with children under 18 are 2 times more likely to be evicted than households without children. In a given year, about a quarter of Black children under 5 in rental homes live in a household facing eviction. Kids who are evicted face high absenteeism and school mobility rates. For children to stay in school and thrive academically, they need to have a stable home.

Evictions harm not just the families experiencing them, but the community they live in.

Evictions destabilize communities, create crime hotspots, strain emergency services resources, and reduce voter participation.

Evictions are Costly.

An eviction generally has two outcomes: entrance into the homelessness system or self-resolution.

In the first, the individual and their family become homeless and must seek services provided in the community. In the second, the individual and their family manage to make arrangements to stay somewhere new, either with family, friends, or in a new apartment.

Though both outcomes share costs such as court and associated fees, negative credit score impact, and greatly diminished ability to secure future stable housing, entrance into the homelessness system carries additional costs that must be borne by federal, state, and local government funding as well as generous donors. Homeward’s most recent Point in Time (PIT) count found that 26.7% of people, in their annual survey of those experiencing homelessness, indicated that they had been evicted in the past three years.

This analysis attempts to associate financial costs with various outcomes of evictions.

A vast majority of evictions are for unpaid rent.

Over half of all renters in Richmond are cost burdened.

53% of rental households in Richmond experience at least one of four housing issues.

rent-burdened households by senate district

Rent-Burdened households by House district

Renters occupy a high number of units that violate building codes.

In 2017 HOME analyzed 3,127 reported building code violations in the City of Richmond.

Of those, 70% of violations related to single-family homes were for investor-owned properties.

Pie chart. 70% Investor-owned, 30% other.

Common code violations related to the health and safety of residents include, but are not limited to:

  • Failure to maintain the premises to prevent accumulation of moisture and mold.
  • Failure to remedy visible mold.
  • Failure to maintain electrical, sanitary, plumbing, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities in safe working order.
  • Failure to perform yearly inspection to ensure smoke detectors are in working order.

What sets Virginia apart?

Evictions Happen Fast.

From the time rent is due to the Sheriff’s eviction, the entire process can take as little as 48 days.

Eviction Timeline Example

  • 1st January

    January Rent Due

    Rent is $1,300. The tenant, Terri, is paid and deposits the check into her bank account.

  • 3rd January

    Terri’s check clears

    She pays $800 towards the rent. Terri still owes $500.

  • 5th January

    Last Day to pay before rent is late

    Although many leases include a grace period, it is not required under Virginia law. Virginia caps late fees at 10% of the amount due, or one month’s rent, whichever is less.

  • 6th January

    “Pay or Quit” Notice

    Landlord gives a 5-day “pay or quit” notice for the remaining balance plus $50 late fee. Terri owes $550.

    Pay or Quit: a notice from the landlord to the tenant informing them that if they do not pay the total amount due within 5 days, the landlord with file an eviction lawsuit.

  • 10th January

    Last day to pay before landlord can file for eviction

    The tenant can avoid eviction if they are able to pay the rent and late fee before the end of the 5 days.

  • 11th January

    Summons for Unlawful Detainer

    The Landlord files an unlawful detainer against Terri for the remaining balance of rent plus a $52 filing fee, $35 service fee, and $75 attorney fee. Terri now owes $712.

    Summons for Unlawful Detainer: legal paperwork that starts the court proceedings for eviction. It gives the date, time, and location for the first court hearing. The first court date is often about 3 weeks later. An unlawful detainer will go on the tenant’s record and can harm their access to credit and future housing, even if they are not evicted.

  • 12th January

    Landlord Charges for Utilities

    Terri receives a utility charge from landlord for $45. Terri now owes $757.

  • 15th January

    Terri Gets Paid

    She deposits the check into her bank account.

  • 17th January

    Terri’s Check Clears

    She pays $550, the amount on the “pay or quit” notice. Terri still owes $207

  • 1st February

    February Rent Due

    Rent is $1,300, plus the unpaid balance. She owes a total of $1,507. Terri is paid and deposits the check into her bank account.

  • 3rd February

    Terri’s check clears

    She pays $1,300 towards the rent but she still has a remaining balance of $207 from the UD.

  • 5th February

    Last Day to pay before rent is late

    Virginia defines “rent” as “all sums due and owing the landlord”, which includes the monthly rent and additional charges, which may include utility charges, court costs, and attorney fees. Terri was unaware of this.

  • 6th February

    Landlord sends a new “Pay or Quit” Notice

    Terri has an unpaid balance of $207, so the landlord charges 10% late fee of $20. Terri owes $227.

    The landlord often sends a new “pay or quit” notice but might not if there is already a pending eviction lawsuit.

  • 8th February

    Return Date & Judgement for Possession

    Terri goes to court. The landlord’s attorney amends the UD to ask for an additional $100 in attorney fees and $200 in “other damages”. Terri admits that she was late in January, but says that she paid what was included on the January “pay or quit” notice. The judge gives the landlord a judgment for possession and schedules a trial to determine how much Terri owes.

    Return Date: the first court date. If the tenant contests the eviction, the court may order a trial.

    Judgment for Possession: if the court finds that the tenant owes rent, it will enter a judgment in favor of the landlord. This allows the landlord to take the next steps to evict the tenant.

  • 9th—18th February

    Appeal Period

    Appeal Period: The tenant has 10 days to appeal the court’s ruling to Circuit Court. In order to appeal, the tenant must file appeal papers and pay an “appeal bond”. The court sets the appeal bond as the amount the tenant owes the landlord.

  • 19th February

    Landlord requests the Writ of Eviction

    Writ of Eviction: After getting a judgment for possession, the landlord can ask the court for the writ. It instructs the sheriff to schedule the eviction.

  • 21st February

    Eviction Notice

    Terri gets the sheriff’s eviction notice on her door. She will be evicted in 3 days. She is confused because she has a trial scheduled for March 5.

    Eviction Notice: Soon after getting the writ from the court, the sheriff gives the tenant a copy of the writ and notice with the date and time the sheriff will return to evict the tenant. The sheriff has to give the tenant at least 72 hours notice.

  • 22nd—23rd February

    Extended right of redemption

    Extended Right of Redemption: Up until 48 hours before the scheduled eviction, tenants have the right to pay everything they owe to cancel the eviction.

  • 24th February

    Eviction by Sheriff

    Terri is evicted from her apartment by the sheriff.

    Unless the court or landlord cancels the eviction, the sheriff will return at the date and time on the notice to physically remove the tenant and change the locks.

How can we fix this?

Tenants have fewer rights.

The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act offers fewer protections for tenants and the ones they do have are difficult to enforce.

Bad property conditions & repairs:

  • Tenants experiencing bad housing conditions cannot withhold their rent to force their landlord to make repairs: this is not allowed under Virginia law and can result in the tenant getting evicted.
  • Tenants can file a lawsuit against their landlord to force them to make the repairs, but to do so, the tenant must be up to date on their rent payments. If the tenant is behind, the court will dismiss their case.

How can we fix this?

Landlord retaliation:

  • Tenants have few protections against retaliation from their landlord. Although it is illegal for the landlords to retaliate when the tenants assert their legal rights, Virginia law makes it difficult to prove.

How can we fix this?