Summary: There has been a stunning number of illegal evictions as a result of COVID-19. The Protection Against Unlawful Evictions Act creates an expedited timeline for a court to hear and remedy illegal evictions.
Based on Virginia SB 1215 (2021)
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act shall be called the “Protection Against Unlawful Evictions Act.”
SECTION 2. PURPOSE
This law is enacted to protect renters from unlawful evictions.
SECTION 3. PROTECTION AGAINST UNLAWFUL EVICTIONS
After section XXX, the following new section XXX shall be inserted:
1) A [district] court shall enter an order pursuant to this section upon petition by a tenant who presents evidence establishing that a landlord has willfully and without authority from the court:
a) removed or excluded the tenant from the dwelling unit unlawfully;
b) interrupted or caused the interruption of an essential service to the tenant;, or
c) taken action to make the premises unsafe for habitation.
2) An order entered pursuant to this section may require the landlord to:
a) allow the tenant to recover possession of the dwelling unit;
b) resume any such interrupted essential service, or
c) fix any willful actions taken by the landlord or the landlord’s agent to make the premises unsafe for habitation.
3) The initial hearing on the tenant’s petition shall be held within five calendar days from the date of the filing of the petition. The court may issue a preliminary order ex parte to require the landlord to take action if the court finds:
a) there is good cause shown to do so; and
b) the tenant made reasonable efforts to alert the landlord of the hearing.
4) Any preliminary ex parte order issued pursuant to this section shall further include a date of no more than 10 days after the initial hearing for a full hearing to consider the merits of the petition and the damages. At the full hearing, the court may terminate the rental agreement upon request of the tenant and order the landlord to return any security deposit.
5) In a full hearing on a petition filed pursuant to this section and upon evidence presented establishing one or more of the factors in subsection 1, the tenant shall recover:
a) the actual damages sustained;
b) statutory damages of $5,000 or four months’ rent, whichever is greater; and
c) reasonable attorney fees.
SECTION 4. EFFECTIVE DATE
This law shall become effective on July 1, 202X.