New Housing Resources and Eviction Protections in the wake of COVD-19

EDITOR’S NOTE:  THE FULL TEXT OF HB1420 AND HB340 HAS BEEN ADDED AS AN ADDENDUM TO GOV. NORTHAM’S PRESS RELEASE.  IF YOUR INCOME AND HOUSING SITUATION HAS BEEN IMPACTED BY COVD-19, READ THESE BILLS, UNDERSTAND YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS, AND TAKE STEPS TO SECURE THEM.

MAY 19, 2020 – From the office of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam

New laws cap late fees and protect renters during emergencies, $12 million to help non-profit housing organizations

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today shared new resources to protect Virginians from eviction and support individuals who have lost their job or income due to COVID-19.

These tools include StayHomeVirginia.com, a new website to help Virginians navigate housing programs, services, and resources. The website offers guidance on working with landlords, financial institutions, and other organizations to use eviction and foreclosure protections during this health crisis. Resources include relief for private mortgage holders, multifamily complexes, and tenants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This public health crisis has created unprecedented housing challenges, regardless of whether you rent or own a home,” said Governor Northam. “Right now, many Virginians are struggling to make next month’s rent or mortgage payments amid a loss in wages due to the pandemic. These resources will help Virginians get the information they need to make decisions, and ensure they have access to a safe, stable, and affordable place to live.”

The new tools were developed in partnership with the Virginia Housing Development Authority, the Commonwealth’s housing financing agency. Virginia Housing has also committed $12 million to help non-profit housing organizations continue operations and deliver services during the COVID-19 emergency and recovery. This funding will support more than 200 non-profit housing entities across all regions of the Commonwealth. The Northam administration has also worked with Virginia Housing to provide a three-month mortgage deferral for those experiencing economic hardship. Landlords who have had their Virginia Housing-backed mortgage deferred must pass this deferral on to their tenants.

Governor Northam also signed two important bills approved by the General Assembly during the reconvened session on April 22 that included his proposed amendments to provide relief to tenants and mortgage holders.

Capping late fees on rent. House Bill 1420 caps late fees at 10 percent of the periodic rent or 10 percent of the remaining balance due, whichever is lesser. This new law will help prevent cascading late fees, allow charges only on the amount due, and set a maximum late fee percentage for the first time in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Delegate Jeffrey Bourne sponsored this measure.

Protecting tenants from eviction during emergencies. House Bill 340 delays rental evictions or mortgage foreclosures for individuals who are not currently covered under the protections offered through the federal CARES Act or state and local protections. Under this new law, a tenant may receive a 60-day continuance of an eviction proceeding from a court if they appear in court and provide written evidence that they are not receiving payments or wages due to the state of emergency declared by the Governor. Additionally, homeowners or landlords that rent one, four, or multifamily units in the Commonwealth can pause a foreclosure proceeding for 30 days if the individual provides their lender with written evidence showing a loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Delegate Marcia C. Price sponsored this measure.

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FULL TEXT of HB1420 and HB340 from the Virginia Legislative Information System

For further information concerning who sponsored, voted for, and voted against these bills, go to virginia.lis.gov and enter the bill numbers in the search box.

2020 SESSION

VIRGINIA ACTS OF ASSEMBLY — CHAPTER

An Act to amend and reenact §§ 55.1-1204 and 55.1-1250 of the Code of Virginia, relating to landlord and tenant; charge for late payment of rent; restrictions.

[H 1420]
Approved
 

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That §§ 55.1-1204 and 55.1-1250 of the Code of Virginia are amended and reenacted as follows:

§ 55.1-1204. Terms and conditions of rental agreement; payment of rent; copy of rental agreement for tenant.

A. A landlord and tenant may include in a rental agreement terms and conditions not prohibited by this chapter or other rule of law, including rent, charges for late payment of rent, the term of the agreement, automatic renewal of the rental agreement, requirements for notice of intent to vacate or terminate the rental agreement, and other provisions governing the rights and obligations of the parties.

B. The landlord shall offer the tenant a written rental agreement containing the terms governing the rental of the dwelling unit and setting forth the terms and conditions of the landlord tenant relationship. Such written rental agreement shall be effective upon the date signed by the parties.

C. If a landlord does not offer a written rental agreement, the tenancy shall exist by operation of law, consisting of the following terms and conditions:

1. The provision of this chapter shall be applicable to the dwelling unit that is being rented;

2. The duration of the rental agreement shall be for 12 months and shall not be subject to automatic renewal, except in the event of a month-to-month lease as otherwise provided for under subsection C of § 55.1-1253;

3. Rent shall be paid in 12 equal periodic installments in an amount agreed upon by the landlord and the tenant and if no amount is agreed upon, the installments shall be at fair market rent;

4. Rent payments shall be due on the first day of each month during the tenancy and shall be considered late if not paid by the fifth of the month;

5. If the rent is paid by the tenant after the fifth day of any given month, the landlord shall be entitled to charge a late charge as provided in this chapter;

6. The landlord may collect a security deposit not to exceed an amount equal to two months of rent; and

7. The parties may enter into a written rental agreement at any time during the 12-month tenancy created by this subsection.

D. Except as provided in the written rental agreement, or as provided in subsection C if no written agreement is offered, rent shall be payable without demand or notice at the time and place agreed upon by the parties. Except as provided in the written rental agreement, rent is payable at the place designated by the landlord, and periodic rent is payable at the beginning of any term of one month or less and otherwise in equal installments at the beginning of each month. If the landlord receives from a tenant a written request for a written statement of charges and payments, he shall provide the tenant with a written statement showing all debits and credits over the tenancy or the past 12 months, whichever is shorter. The landlord shall provide such written statement within 10 business days of receiving the request.

E. A landlord shall not charge a tenant for late payment of rent unless such charge is provided for in the written rental agreement. No such late charge shall exceed the lesser of 10 percent of the periodic rent or 10 percent of the remaining balance due and owed by the tenant.

F. Except as provided in the written rental agreement or, as provided in subsection C if no written agreement is offered, the tenancy shall be week-to-week in the case of a tenant who pays weekly rent and month-to-month in all other cases. Terminations of tenancies shall be governed by § 55.1-1253 unless the rental agreement provides for a different notice period.

F. G. If the rental agreement contains any provision allowing the landlord to approve or disapprove a sublessee or assignee of the tenant, the landlord shall, within 10 business days of receipt of the written application of the prospective sublessee or assignee on a form to be provided by the landlord, approve or disapprove the sublessee or assignee. Failure of the landlord to act within 10 business days is evidence of his approval.

G. H. The landlord shall provide a copy of any written rental agreement signed by both the tenant and the landlord to the tenant within one month of the effective date of the written rental agreement. The failure of the landlord to deliver such a rental agreement shall not affect the validity of the agreement.

H. I. No unilateral change in the terms of a rental agreement by a landlord or tenant shall be valid unless (i) notice of the change is given in accordance with the terms of the rental agreement or as otherwise required by law and (ii) both parties consent in writing to the change.

I. J. The landlord shall provide the tenant with a written receipt, upon request from the tenant, whenever the tenant pays rent in the form of cash or money order.

§ 55.1-1250. Landlord’s acceptance of rent with reservation.

A. The landlord may accept full or partial payment of all rent and receive an order of possession from a court of competent jurisdiction pursuant to an unlawful detainer action filed under Article 13 (§ 8.01-124 et seq.) of Chapter 3 of Title 8.01 and proceed with eviction under § 55.1-1255, provided that the landlord has stated in a written notice to the tenant that any and all amounts owed to the landlord by the tenant, including payment of any rent, damages, money judgment, award of attorney fees, and court costs, would be accepted with reservation and would not constitute a waiver of the landlord’s right to evict the tenant from the dwelling unit. Such notice may be included in a written termination notice given by the landlord to the tenant in accordance with § 55.1-1245, and if so included, nothing herein shall be construed by a court of law or otherwise as requiring such landlord to give the tenant subsequent written notice. If the dwelling unit is a public housing unit or other housing unit subject to regulation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, nothing in this section shall be construed to require that written notice be given to any public agency paying a portion of the rent under the rental agreement. If a landlord enters into a new written rental agreement with the tenant prior to eviction, an order of possession obtained prior to the entry of such new rental agreement is not enforceable.

B. The tenant may pay or present to the court a redemption tender for payment of all rent due and owing as of the return date, including late charges, attorney fees, and court costs, at or before the first return date on an action for unlawful detainer. For purposes of this section, “redemption tender” means a written commitment to pay all rent due and owing as of the return date, including late charges, attorney fees, and court costs, by a local government or nonprofit entity within 10 days of such return date.

C. If the tenant presents a redemption tender to the court at the return date, the court shall continue the action for unlawful detainer for 10 days following the return date for payment to the landlord of all rent due and owing as of the return date, including late charges, attorney fees, and court costs, and dismiss the action upon such payment. Should the landlord not receive full payment of all rent due and owing as of the return date, including late charges, attorney fees, and court costs, within 10 days of the return date, the court shall, without further evidence, grant to the landlord judgment for all amounts due and immediate possession of the premises.

D. In cases of unlawful detainer, a tenant may pay the landlord or the landlord’s attorney or pay into court all (i) rent due and owing as of the court date as contracted for in the rental agreement, (ii) other charges and fees as contracted for in the rental agreement, (iii) late charges contracted for in the rental agreement, (iv) reasonable attorney fees as contracted for in the rental agreement or as provided by law, and (v) costs of the proceeding as provided by law, at which time the unlawful detainer proceeding shall be dismissed. If such payment has not been made as of the return date for the unlawful detainer, the tenant may pay to the landlord, the landlord’s attorney, or the court all amounts claimed on the summons in unlawful detainer, including current rent, damages, late fees charges, costs of court, any civil recovery, attorney fees, and sheriff fees, no less than two business days before the date scheduled by the officer to whom the writ of eviction has been delivered to be executed. Any payments made by the tenant shall be by cashier’s check, certified check, or money order. A tenant may invoke the rights granted in this section no more than one time during any 12-month period of continuous residency in the dwelling unit, regardless of the term of the rental agreement or any renewal term of the rental agreement.

2. That an emergency exists and this act is in force from its passage.

2020 SESSION

CHAPTER 1202

An Act to amend the Code of Virginia by adding in Chapter 7 of Title 44 a section numbered 44-209, relating to emergency laws; civil relief; citizens of the Commonwealth furloughed or otherwise not receiving wages or payments due to closure of the federal government or declaration of emergency by the Governor.

[H 340]
Approved April 22, 2020
 

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That the Code of Virginia is amended by adding in Chapter 7 of Title 44 a section numbered 44-209 as follows:

§ 44-209. Closure of United States government; civil relief for furloughed employees and contractors.

A. As used in this section:

“Closure of the United States government” means a closure of the United States federal government for a period of 14 consecutive days or longer as a result of a lapse of appropriation that leads to (i) the curtailment of federal agency activities and services, (ii) a shutdown of nonessential operations, (iii) nonessential workers being furloughed, and (iv) only essential employees in departments covering the safety of human life or protection of property being retained.

“Written proof” means (i) a paystub issued by a federal government agency showing zero dollars in earnings for a pay period within the period of any closure of the United States government, (ii) a copy of a furlough notification letter or essential employee status letter indicating the employee’s status as nonessential, or (iii) a letter from a company under contract with the United States government issued and signed by an officer or owner of the company or by the company’s human resources director stating that the employee’s not receiving payment from the contractor is directly attributable to a closure of the United States government.

B. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, any tenant as defined in § 55.1-1200 who is a defendant in an unlawful detainer for nonpayment of rent pursuant to § 55.1-1245 for rent due after the commencement of a closure of the United States government seeking a judgment for the payment of money or possession of the premises shall be granted a 60-day continuance of such unlawful detainer action from the initial court date if the tenant appears on such court date and provides written proof that he was furloughed or otherwise was or is not currently receiving wages or payments as a result of a closure of the United States government, and is (i) an employee of the United States government, (ii) an independent contractor for the United States government, or (iii) an employee of a company under contract with the United States government. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply if the landlord has filed a material noncompliance notice for a non-rent violation of the rental agreement or of the Code of Virginia.

C. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, any homeowner who, after the commencement of a closure of the United States government, defaults on a note that is secured by a one-family to four-family residential property located in the Commonwealth and is subject to a foreclosure proceeding on any mortgage or to the execution of or sale under any deed of trust shall be granted a 30-day stay of such proceeding if the homeowner, within 90 days of such closure or 90 days following the end of a closure of the United States government, whichever is later, requests a stay and provides written proof to his lender that he was furloughed or otherwise was or is not currently receiving wages or payments as a result of a closure of the United States government, and is (i) an employee of the United States government, (ii) an independent contractor for the United States government, or (iii) an employee of a company under contract with the United States government.

D. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, any owner who rents a one-family to four-family residential dwelling unit located in the Commonwealth to a tenant as defined in § 55.1-1200 and who, after the commencement of a closure of the United States government, defaults on a note that is secured by such dwelling unit and is subject to a foreclosure proceeding on any mortgage or to the execution of or sale under any deed of trust shall be granted a 30-day stay of such proceeding if the owner, within 90 days of such closure or 90 days following the end of a closure of the United States government, whichever is later, requests a stay and provides written proof to his lender that his tenant was furloughed or otherwise was or is not currently receiving wages or payments as a result of a closure of the United States government, and is (i) an employee of the United States government, (ii) an independent contractor for the United States government, or (iii) an employee of a company under contract with the United States government.

E. The provisions of this section shall not (i) apply in an instance where a separate, signed legal agreement exists between a landlord and tenant or homeowner and mortgage holder to stay legal action or defer the filing of an unlawful detainer motion for nonpayment of rent or foreclosure proceeding on any mortgage or to the execution of or sale under any deed of trust for a term of 30 days or greater or (ii) affect any other terms of a valid rental agreement or note secured by a one-family to four-family residential property, mortgage, or deed of trust unrelated to nonpayment of rent or default of a mortgage caused by a closure of the United States government.

2. § 1. That the provisions of subsections B, C, and D of § 44-209, as created by this act, with respect to a continuance or stay of (i) an unlawful detainer action or (ii) a foreclosure proceeding on a mortgage or an execution of or sale under any deed of trust shall also be applicable to any tenant, homeowner, or owner, respectively, affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic public health crisis during the period for which the Governor has declared a state of emergency (the Emergency). The provisions of subsection D of § 44-209, as created by this act, shall be expanded during the Emergency to include any owner who (a) rents a residential dwelling unit, regardless of its size or capacity, located in the Commonwealth, and (b) is affected by the Emergency.

§ 2. Homeowners and owners shall be excluded from the provisions of this enactment if they are subject to protection from foreclosure under the provisions of a federal, state, or local law, regulation, or action enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic or the Emergency.

§ 3. Any continuance or stay period provided by this enactment shall be tolled during the period of any judicial emergency declared pursuant to § 17.1-330 of the Code of Virginia due to the Emergency.

§ 4. The 60-day continuance provided by this enactment shall run concurrently with any period of eviction protection provided by any other state or federal law.

§ 5. For purposes of this enactment:

“Affected by” means to experience a loss of income from a public or private source due to the Emergency, such that the affected party must request a stay or continuance, as applicable, by providing written proof to a court or lender, as applicable, stating that he is not currently receiving wages or payments from a public or private source as a result of the Emergency.

“Written proof” means (i) a paystub showing zero dollars in earnings for a pay period within the period for which the Governor has declared a state of emergency (the Emergency) in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic public health crisis, (ii) a copy of a furlough notification letter or essential employee status letter indicating the employee’s status as nonessential due to the Emergency, or (iii) any other documentation deemed appropriate by a court or lender.

3. That an emergency exists and this act is in force from its passage.

4. That the provisions of the second enactment of this act shall expire 90 days following the end of a state of emergency declared by the Governor in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic public health crisis.

 

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