Business Law Insights

A patchwork of regulations imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic has caused confusion among landlords and tenants regarding their rights and obligations under their lease agreements. As part of the latest Coronavirus relief package, Congress extended the CDC eviction moratorium through January 31. As part of the 2020-2022 budget bill, the Virginia General Assembly enacted restrictions on rent-related evictions that took effect on January 1, 2021. It is important to note that the Virginia and CDC restrictions only apply to non-payment of rent, therefore evictions for other violations such as criminal activity or property damage may proceed. This blog will focus on the requirements that landlords must meet before pursuing an eviction for failure to pay rent during the Governor’s declared state of emergency.

According to an announcement from Governor Northam, landlords can now apply for assistance for current and past-due rental payments dating back to April 1, on behalf of tenants who qualify for assistance under Virginia’s rental and mortgage relief program. The program uses federal funds from the CARES Act to help households facing eviction or foreclosure due to the pandemic. Now landlords can apply directly for relief under the program as well.

Litigants in civil lawsuits often ask if they will be able to recover their attorney’s fees from the opposing party if they ultimately win the case. Virginia follows the “American Rule” which provides that generally, opposing parties must pay their own attorney’s fees regardless of who wins the case. The rationale of the rule is that a plaintiff should not be deterred from bringing a case to court for fear of incurring substantial costs. However, this general rule may be altered by contractual agreement or legislation. Statutes allowing for the recovery of attorney’s fees by a successful plaintiff are intended to encourage meritorious claims.

A new law enacted by the General Assembly will require landlords to provide prospective tenants with a statement of their rights and responsibilities under the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. The “Tenant Bill of Rights” will be posted on the Department of Housing and Community Development website, and shall be signed by the parties to a written rental agreement. The Bill of Rights will include, among other things, an explanation of (i) the landlord's responsibility to maintain the dwelling unit in a fit and habitable condition, (ii) the tenant's right to request repairs and

The reality of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to consider previously unthinkable “what if” scenarios, and has taught many people valuable lessons about being better prepared for the unexpected. As many are now planning to start more conservatively saving for an unexpected financial downturn and to maintain a reasonable supply of household essentials, individuals should also take advantage of this extended period of social distancing to prepare in another way—by reevaluating or creating an estate plan. Given the current atmosphere, here are some things to consider:

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