‘Can’t work, can’t pay’: Virginians call for rent freeze during pandemic

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Dozens of Virginians rallied in Richmond Monday demanding a ‘rent freeze” amid the coronavirus pandemic that has caused thousands to lose their jobs.

Protestors, made up mostly of restaurant and retail workers, honked their horns around downtown Richmond with signs stating “Can’t work, can’t pay. Rent Freeze now.”

“Most of us can’t make rent April 1 and most of our landlords are not offering any sort of leniency so the fear of eviction is very high,” Mag Prete told 8News.

Mag Prete

On Friday, the Supreme Court of Virginia extended an emergency judicial order that freezes eviction cases around the state until April 26. Rent is still due, however, and landlords are still able to begin the evictions process.

“This has put us in an actual state of crisis and a lot of people are at risk of losing the security they’ve known their whole lives,” Prete said, unsure of when the pandemic will end in Virginia.

Governor Ralph Northam’s office said Wednesday that he doesn’t have authority to issue a rent freeze between private property owners and renters. Prete said that she’s reached out to Governor Northam’s office urging for action, however.

Her calls have not been returned. 

Northam’s office noted that the $1,200 stimulus check many Americans are expected to receive in the coming months aims to help those facing financial burdens. 

Still, some other state and city governments are asking for more. 

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson sent a letter to multi-family landlords requesting that they accommodate tenants across the city who are facing sudden financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In New York, a bill before the New York State Senate and Assembly has proposed a 90-day rent freeze while Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a 90-day mortgage waiver for single and two-family homeowners. 

8News spoke with the Virginia Apartment Management Association, who works with several big rental companies in Richmond including Landmark property services, and Greystar Real Estate Properties. Patrick McCloud says they’re urging property management companies to work with tenants. 

“We know that there are lots of people out there who aren’t gonna get the same paycheck they’re used to and might not get a paycheck at all,” he told 8News. 

He said some are waiving late fees or creating payment plans for tenants. 

“Everyone I’ve talked to is looking at what they can do to work with residents,” McCloud added. “That’s very individualized based upon everyone’s situation.”

McCloud said tenants who have lost their jobs and can’t pay rent should be reaching out to their management companies as soon as possible. He adds that tenants who are able to pay rent should do so, that way the management companies have the ability to be flexible. 

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News for updates.

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