Virginia Organizing Fights for Tenant Rights Amid Rising Complaints
Written by: Bonnie Chapman
WAYNESBORO, VIRGINIA — As Virginia faces mounting tension between landlords and tenants, the grassroots advocacy group, Virginia Organizing, is taking a bold stance. The group, known for its dedication to social justice issues, is fiercely pushing for a more equitable process for tenants to file complaints against landlords, and that push was on display outside of Waynesboro's City Hall at a demonstration and press conference on Wednesday evening. This comes amid allegations of negligence, unsafe living conditions, and even instances of retaliation against tenants who dare to speak out.
For Nora Scott, a resident of Waynesboro, the consequences of a skewed system became painfully apparent when they were given an abrupt 30-day eviction notice. This sudden eviction, in the middle of their one-year lease, was justified by their landlord's claim of needing to occupy the apartment for personal reasons.
The issues did not end there. After finding a new place under a different landlord, Scott and their partner found themselves amid harrowing domestic abuse incidents involving their neighbors. Despite multiple reports to the property owner and law enforcement, there was no intervention.
"When complaints were made, they were sparsely handled or ignored," said Scott. "We lived amidst mold, and it seemed like there was nothing to be done."
Andrea Jackson, another Waynesboro resident and community activist who is a member of Virginia Organizing, concurs with Scott's sentiment. Born and raised in Waynesboro, Jackson has been familiar with the area's politics for a long time. As an on-and-off volunteer for Virginia Organizing for the past decade, she laments the apathetic approach of local officials toward residents classified as the working poor.
“They do not value poor people, that’s just the truth,” Jackson passionately stated.
According to Jackson, more than half of Waynesboro's population falls under the category of 'working poor'. In her view, the city council seems to be turning a blind eye to the negligent actions of many landlords, some of whom have allowed their properties to fall into extreme disrepair.
“It’s a culture of letting the slumlords slide,” Jackson said. She hopes for the city council to not only acknowledge these issues but to actively condemn the actions of landlords who fail in their duty to their tenants.
Virginia Organizing's attempts to get a response from the mayor on these issues have, so far, been met with silence. In multiple meetings, the mayor has maintained a position of listening but not commenting.
The advocacy group remains hopeful for change, even suggesting a modest start of inspecting just two apartments at a time to ensure tenants aren’t retaliated against.
The struggles faced by tenants like Scott and the advocacy work of groups like Virginia Organizing highlight a dire need for reform in Waynesboro. As the debate continues, one message from the community is clear: it's time for accountability.