ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A significant number of tenants in Mallside Forest Apartments were given five-day "pay or quit" notices last week, meaning they had to pay what they owe in rent or face eviction.

"I deserve to have a roof over my head," said Mable Christian, one of the tenants who received a notice.

According to the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), it's possible that close to half of the 160 units in Mallside received notices, based on reports that the organization received from tenants.

The apartment complex receives a tax credit from the Low Income Tax Credit Program, which means it has to provide housing for low-income residents. A lot of residents also have Housing Choice Vouchers.

"It just doesn't seem like it's a coincidence that this is happening right after the rent relief protections have expired," said Carrie Klosko, a senior attorney with LAJC.

Under those pandemic-era protections, which ended July 1, a landlord had to apply for state rent relief and wait for approval before sending a notice to evict a tenant. Tenants also had two weeks to pay up after notice as opposed to five days.

"As of July 1, it went back to the way things were before, and if you're a landlord in Virginia who wanted to evict someone for non-payment, you can just send the notice and do it. It seems like that's what Mallside did with a lot of people," Klosko said.

LAJC said Christian applied for rent relief when protections were still in place, but the program didn't have all the paperwork that was required from the landlord.

"I didn't even know we weren't in compliance," Christian said. "I feel that the rent relief will save us and put us back on track."

When the five days are up, a landlord still has to go through the court process, then file a summons for an unlawful detainer in court. It could be two to three months in the court system before the tenant actually has to get out.

A woman who worked in Mallside's leasing office declined to answer questions.

LAJC will be knocking on doors and informing tenants of their rights over the next few days.