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New Landlord-Tenant COVID-19 Legislation

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This morning we received the following notice from the Virginia Association of Realtors(R) about the new landlord-tenant COVID-19 legislation. It's important for all landlords, and tenants, to understand the provisions of the new legislation and how it may effect their operations.

Yesterday, the General Assembly concluded the 2020 Special Session. Some of the Governor’s Amendments to the Budget were not adopted which means the Governor has until December 9, 2020 to address the Budget (so the Budget is not yet final).  The Budget contains language that controls legal processes for evictions, including language that dovetails with the federal eviction moratorium through December 31, 2020 issued by the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”).  Although we do not anticipate the Budget language on evictions to change, it is important for landlords to understand what is coming. 

It is important to be aware of one piece of legislation that has an emergency clause was signed into law by the Governor and is therefore effective on November 9, 2020. HB 5064 amends the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act (“VRLTA”) to require a landlord who owns four or less dwelling units to give the tenant a 14-day notice instead of a 5-day notice for nonpayment of rent. For landlords who own five or more dwelling units, the VRLTA now requires a 14-day notice instead of a 5-day notice for nonpayment of rent, with the additional requirement that the tenant shall be offered the opportunity to enter a payment plan for the back-rent owed, with payments spread out over six months. Landlords and property managers should carefully review the provisions of HB 5064 by clicking this link. HB 5064 sunsets on June 30, 2021. 

The major changes in landlord-tenant law are contained in the State Budget, which is not yet effective but will be sometime in December.

Under this new language in the State Budget, Virginia will continue to operate under the CDC’s eviction moratorium until December 31, 2020. In Virginia, no landlord shall terminate a residential tenancy, or take any action to obtain possession of a dwelling unit, for non-payment of rent through December 31, 2020, unless such an eligible tenant refuses to apply for Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (“RMRP”) assistance and refuses to cooperate with the landlord in applying for rental assistance through the Virginia RMRP. If the tenant refuses to apply for rent relief or refuses to cooperate with the landlord in applying for rent relief, the landlord can proceed with the eviction process within 14 days of receipt of the written notice. However, no eviction is allowed to occur under the CDC eviction moratorium until after December 31, 2020. In addition, landlords must do the following:

 

If the owner owns LESS THAN 5 residential rental units, the owner or their agents MUST:

  • Provide a notice to the tenant, if late on the rent:
    • informing the tenant of the total amount due and owed;
    • informing the tenant of the web-address of the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program - https://www.virginiahousing.com/RMRP - and the phone number to call to inquire­, 2-1-1;
    • informing the tenant that the landlord, owner, or agent SHALL apply on behalf of the tenant to the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program and that the landlord will cooperate with the tenant, if the tenant is applying; and
    • comply with the 14-day notice provisions of HB 5064:

https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?202+ful+HB5064ER2+pdf.

 

If the owner owns 5 OR MORE residential rental units (or more than a 10-percent interest in more than four rental dwelling units, whether individually or through a business entity), the owner or their agent MUST:

  • Provide a notice to the tenant, if late on the rent:
    • informing the tenant of the total amount due and owed;
    • informing the tenant that if the tenant provides to the landlord a signed statement certifying that the tenant has experienced additional expenses or a loss of income due to the declared state of emergency (COVID-19), the tenant may, but is not required to, enter into a payment plan under which the tenant shall be required to pay the total amount due and owed in equal monthly installments over a period of the lesser of six months or the time remaining under the rental agreement. The total amount due and owed cannot include late fees, nor can late fees be assessed during the payment plan period so long as the tenant is making timely payments;
    • informing the tenant of the web address of the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program - https://www.virginiahousing.com/RMRP - and the phone number to call to inquire, 2-1-1;
    • informing the tenant that the landlord, owner, or agent SHALL apply on behalf of the tenant to the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program or that the landlord will cooperate with the tenant, if the tenant is applying; and
    • comply with the 14-day provisions and the payment plan requirements of HB 5064:

https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?202+ful+HB5064ER2+pdf.

 

The deadline for landlords to apply for rent relief on behalf of their tenants is November 30, 2020. It is vital that landlords begin the process of setting up a profile with the Rent and Mortgage Relief Program AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Information on the program, how to create your profile, tenant eligibility, and how to apply for rent relief is available on the Virginia Housing website. The profile approval process can take up to 5 days before applications can begin, so please set up your profiles now. Funds are available for 100% rent relief for tenants who are making 80% AMI 30 days prior to the application. Funds can be proactively applied for through December 2020 so long as there is a lease in place.

 

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If you'd like more information, or to discuss your own personal situation, please schedule a time to consult with me via the following link.

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