ANNOUNCEMENT: Norton Pelt, PLC is relocating! As of 5/2/2022, you can find us at 1103 Princess Anne Street, Fredericksburg, VA 22401. To give you an idea of what to look for, we are moving into a historical home within walking distance of the Fredericksburg Courthouse. Our phone and fax remain the same. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Updates on Virginia Landlord-Tenant Laws

In the past year, Virginia landlords have had to stay on top of many landlord-tenant law changes. What was originally meant to be temporary eviction relief on the federal level kept getting extended, and substantial changes also came out of a special session in Richmond. Norton Pelt has compiled several important updates that landlords need to know.

National Protections for Renters

The majority of residential rental properties in the United States are currently subject to a CDC eviction moratorium. The moratorium, which originally took effect with the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act in late March 2020, is currently set to expire on June 30, 2021. It’s possible that it will be extended again. Tenants who wish to take advantage of the federal protections must present a signed declaration to their landlord. 

Recent Changes to Virginia Landlord-Tenant Laws

The state legislature’s special session in 2020 yielded a few more layers of protection from eviction for renters—and a few more obligations for landlords. As long as the COVID-19 State of Emergency is active, landlords must, before evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent: 

  • Provide tenants with a letter notifying them of the amount they owe. After receipt of the notice, tenants have 14 days to pay the balance or get in touch with a rental assistance program. This letter should include information on the state Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP) and other relief programs. If a tenant does not apply for the RMRP within 14 days, the landlord may have to apply on behalf of the tenant. 
  • Offer a payment plan to tenants for non-payment of rent. This obligation only applies to landlords who own five or more rental units or have 10 percent or greater ownership interest in at least five rental units. Tenants who refuse to enter into a payment plan may be evicted after 14 days after its offering. Otherwise, these landlords may not evict tenants unless tenants miss a payment during the plan. Before taking part in a payment plan, tenants must attest—in writing—that they experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19. The payment plan must satisfy certain conditions, as well.

When Do These Additional Tenant Protections Not Apply? 

The protections of the CDC moratorium are intended to shield tenants from eviction for non-payment of rent. The moratorium does not currently prevent landlords from evicting tenants when their lease ends, when the tenant threatens the health or safety of other residents, for significantly damaging the property, or for violating other obligations under their lease. 

Adding Government Assistance As a Protected Class

As of April 16, Virginia landlords are also prohibited from refusing potential renters on the basis of receiving public benefits like Social Security Disability Insurance. The recent law adds this protected class to the Virginia Fair Housing Law. A similar law took effect months earlier, on Nov. 9, 2020. This law prohibits landlords with five or more rental units from taking adverse actions against applicants who had trouble paying rent after March 12, 2020 and up to 30 days after the COVID-19 State of Emergency is lifted in Virginia.  

What’s Happening in Neighboring Areas? 

On Wednesday, May 5, 2021, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled that the CDC’s eviction moratorium exceeded the agency’s legal authority. Judges in several state and federal courts, including Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, have issued rulings that diverge from the CDC order or disregard it completely. What does that mean for Virginia? We’re likely to see changes in the law continue over the next few months, and it’s unclear how Virginia District Court judges will be influenced by these decisions from our neighboring states. 

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has had quite an effect on many types of business operations, and landlords have not been immune. In Virginia, landlords must now provide tenants with certain notices; many of these notices are applicable to one or more 14-day deadlines. National protections for renters and associated court rulings have resulted in uncertainty for landlords. 

Norton Pelt provides Virginia landlords with strategic legal counsel so they are able to have a steady income stream and fulfill all legal obligations. Let us know how we can Represent You with the Strength of the Mountain.

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