RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A new report from the RVA Eviction Lab found that just 15 companies are responsible for half of all evictions in Richmond as the end of state rent relief drives soaring eviction filings.

“Overall in Virginia, eviction filings are at the highest point of the pandemic,” said Dr. Benjamin Teresa, co-director of the RVA Eviction Lab at VCU’s Wilder School.

This map shows current levels of eviction filings compared to the last measured level before the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy of RVA Eviction Lab)

One factor driving the mounting wave of evictions is the end of Virginia’s rent relief program, which closed to new applicants on May 15.

“Legal protections requiring landlords to apply for rent relief before evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent ended at the end of June, 2022, at the end of Q2,” the Eviction Lab report reads. “The implications of the removal of these supports for tenants are immediately obvious in court data collected in the following weeks.”

Already in Chesterfield, Petersburg and some parts of Richmond, the report found that eviction filings are already higher than pre-pandemic levels.

“At this pace, the rate of eviction filings in Virginia will soon return to their pre-pandemic status, and could even surpass it,” the report continues.

Taking Action

For now, Teresa said actual evictions have not yet reached a crisis level, but likely will if action isn’t taken.

“The largest increase is in filings, not judgements,” he said. “That means there’s still time to intervene.”

Policies to address the crisis could include a new round of rental assistance, eviction diversion programs, expanded access to legal advice for tenants facing eviction and substantial public investment in affordable housing.

But if state and local leaders don’t take action, Teresa said a further increase in evictions is likely.

Even those who are able to stay in their homes will often feel the repercussions of an eviction filing for years to come, because those filings are public records — available to any future apartments they apply to.

“Those are definitely used by landlords screening tenants,” Teresa said.

And as rent continues to soar in Central Virginia, Teresa added that there could be a wave of “invisible evictions.” Essentially, when landlords offer new leases with much higher rents, many tenants are forced to move if they can’t pay. This displacement has many of the same negative social effects as eviction, but doesn’t show up on court records.

Who’s Evicting?

The mounting eviction crisis in Richmond is driven in large part by large companies, not individual landlords. When RVA Eviction Lab evaluated eviction filings in Richmond, they found that LLCs, or Limited Liability Companies, accounted for just under 87% of them.

The remaining 12.5% of eviction cases were brought by individuals, with just .6% — 6 total cases — brought by Richmond’s public housing authority.

Further analysis revealed that half of all evictions in Richmond were brought by just 15 companies, many of which operated under multiple names when filing their cases.

According to Teresa, large companies may be more prone to eviction because they use automated systems to file cases as soon as a tenant falls behind on rent — regardless of whether they’re awaiting rental relief.

“As soon as that date comes around and the payment’s late, that automated process starts,” he said.

One such company, Aion Management, recently purchased two apartment complexes in Richmond and Henrico, both of which primarily serve lower-income residents. Earlier this year, 8News reported that the company filed over 230 evictions against residents at their property in Henrico.

And again in October, Axios reported that the company filed another 250 cases against residents of their property on Richmond’s Southside.