Pro Bono News

Editorial: Slowing Down the Eviction Process (VA)

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Editorial: Slowing Down the Eviction Process

"A PROPOSAL to delay at least some court-ordered evictions by sending them to a “diversion track” that would give tenants who fall behind on their rent more time to catch up could help reduce homelessness in Virginia if enacted by the General Assembly next year.

State law allows eviction proceedings to commence five days after the rent is due. But a work group comprised of both landlords and housing advocates has been looking at a successful Eviction Diversion Program in Michigan as a way of temporarily slowing the process down.

An analysis of the pilot program used in one courtroom of the District Court in Lansing, Mich. between September and December 2017 found that the formal eviction rate showed a “sharp decrease” of more than 12 percent over the previous year. The default rate per tenant also decreased more than 11 percent during that same period.

A flyer designed by Margaret Hagan, director of the Legal Design Lab at Stanford University, was sent out to every tenant who received an eviction summons, explaining that pro bono legal help was available in their upcoming landlord-tenant hearing, as well as informing them of the consequences of not showing up: “If you don’t act now, you may be evicted.”

The pro bono lawyers negotiated settlement agreements with the landlords that allowed tenants to remain in the property while they paid a specific amount of money towards the back rent they owed. The settlement agreement was then approved by the judge. A human services employee was also present, so tenants could apply for financial aid as soon as the hearing was over..."

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