NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - As residents of the Seaview Lofts wait in limbo, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Del. Marcia Price (D-Newport News) said the incident highlights how local governments need more say to crack down on out of compliance landlords.
"I think it's pointing out a potential weakness in state law because the New Jersey owner has been unresponsive," Kaine said following a round table discussion on housing with local community groups on Thursday.
Residents of the 15-story apartment building have been told they need to vacate the building by Friday morning due to ongoing safety issues in the building, specifically the elevators not working or being up to code.
A building official tells News 3 they're hoping to have the elevator fixed on Thursday and re-inspected. If the elevator passes inspection, the residents will not have to leave, the official said.
In the meantime, residents are left scrambling to find housing. On Thursday morning, News 3 saw families moving out.
The court order did not require the owner to find the tenants alternative housing, according to the city.
"Unfortunately, in the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, the landlord is not responsible for finding alternative housing, and that's something we’ve been taking a look at at the state level," Del. Price told News 3.
Del. Price had sponsored legislation she believes would've helped. HB802 would've given local governments more powers to force landlords to make repairs to properties, but Gov. Glenn Youngkin vetoed the bill, saying it was unnecessary and had duplicative language that already exists in state law.
"The two options that the city has now are to levy fines or condemn the property. Neither of those help tenants, and often times the fines are less expensive than the repairs, so that doesn't help a tenant get the fix they need or open the building back up," said Price.
If the governor had signed the bill, it would've taken effect Friday and Price believes would've been an asset to the people at the Seaview Lofts.
"My heart is breaking," she said.
We've learned that officials with Newport News Code and Compliance will be at the building Friday morning to walk through each floor and tell residents to leave.
While the building is not officially closed, there is no date for reopening. It's all based on how the inspection goes. Since this is a holiday weekend, residents will not have any updates until next week.
Tenants received an email from management Thursday night saying that they are still working to repair the elevator issues and have been doing so "for weeks." They say that the process has been taking longer than anticipated due to supply chain issues.
Management believes the elevator company will go out to the property Friday to do the final repairs needed.
"We do not want any residents to be vacated from the property, but the city of Newport News is not allowing us ample time for these repairs. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused and we are hoping that you will not have to vacate," the email reads.