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.
Landlords owning four or more units must give tenants written notice of the amount of rent due and owed and that the tenant has 14 days to pay the amount due, enter into a payment plan, or make other arrangements with the landlord. The tenant must submit a signed statement certifying additional expenses or a loss of income due to the declared state of emergency in order to have the option of entering a payment plan. The payment plan must be for equal payments over the shorter of six months or the end of the lease term, and cannot include late fees. Landlords owning less than four units don’t need to offer a payment plan.
If the tenant fails to pay in full or enter into a written payment plan with the landlord within 14 days, the landlord may proceed to obtain possession of the premises. However, before proceeding with an eviction the landlord shall serve upon the tenant a written notice informing the tenant of the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program and information on how to reach 2-1-1 Virginia. The written notice shall also inform the tenant that the landlord will apply for rental assistance with the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program on behalf of the tenant, or the landlord will cooperate with the tenant’s application for rental assistance. Unless the tenant has communicated to the landlord that they are applying for rental assistance funds, the landlord shall apply for rental assistance on behalf of the tenant no later than 14 days from the time the written notice is served. If the tenant does not qualify for state or federal assistance, refuses to apply for rental assistance, or refuses to cooperate with the landlord in applying for rental assistance, the landlord may proceed with the eviction. Also, if the landlord or tenant does not receive written approval from the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program or any other federal, state, or local rent relief program within 45 days of when the application for assistance is made, or if there are no longer funds available from these sources, the landlord may proceed with the eviction.
This blog provides just a summary of the complex procedural and notice requirements under the new Virginia legislation. More information on the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program can be found at: https://www.dhcd.virginia.gov/rmrp. Please reach out to us if you have questions or concerns regarding the new regulations. At PLDR we are monitoring developments from Richmond and Washington to ensure that you get the best advice regarding your landlord-tenant matters.