Updates to Virginia Landlord and Tenant Act (“VRLTA”)
In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the General Assembly has enacted the following bills, which are effective as of April 22, 2019.
House Bill 340 – Closure of the United States government; civil relief for furloughed employees and contractors. Amends the Code of Virginia by adding in Chapter 7 of Title 44 a section numbered 44-209.
- Provides a 60-day stay of an unlawful detainer for nonpayment of rent for tenants and a 30-day stay of foreclosure proceedings for homeowners of, and owners who rent to a tenant, a one-family to four-family residential dwelling unit who request a stay and provide written proof, defined in the bill, that they are (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 who was furloughed or was or is otherwise not receiving wages or payments as a result of a closure of the United States government, defined in the bill. The bill requires homeowners and owners who rent to a tenant a one-family to four-family residential dwelling unit to request such stay of foreclosure proceedings within 90 days of a closure of the United States government or 90 days following the end of such closure, whichever is later. The bill also expands the available relief to any tenant, homeowner, or owner 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 bill contains an emergency clause and provides that the expanded relief provisions shall expire 90 days following the end of the Emergency.
The General Assembly has also passed certain amendments to the VRLTA. These amendments are detailed below:
House Bill 393 – Landlord and tenant; tenant rights and responsibilities. Amends and reenacts §§ 36-139 and 55.1-1204 of the Code of Virginia.
- Requires the Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development to develop a statement of tenant rights and responsibilities explaining in plain language the rights and responsibilities of tenants under the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (§ 55.1-1200 et seq.) and maintain such statement on the Department’s website along with a form to be signed by the parties to a rental agreement. The bill requires that the statement be provided to any prospective tenant and that the form developed by the Department be signed by the parties to the rental agreement. The bill prohibits a landlord from filing or maintaining an action against a tenant in a court of law for any alleged lease violation until he has provided the tenant with the statement of tenant rights and responsibilities. This bill is identical to Senate Bill 707.
House Bill 519 – Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act; notice of termination to contain legal aid information. Amends and reenacts § 55.1-1202 of the Code of Virginia.
- Provides that no notice of termination of tenancy served upon a tenant receiving tenant-based rental assistance through (i) the Housing Choice Voucher Program, 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(o), or (ii) any other federal, state, or local program by a private landlord is effective unless it contains on its first page, in type no smaller or less legible than that otherwise used in the body of the notice, the statewide legal aid telephone number and website address. This bill is identical to Senate Bill 115.
House Bill 594 – Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act; return of security deposit. Amends and reenacts § 55.1-1226 of the Code of Virginia.
- Requires the landlord to return the tenant’s security deposit, minus any deductions or charges, within 45 days of the termination of the tenancy or the date the tenant vacates the dwelling unit, whichever occurs last. Under current law, the 45-day period to return the security deposit begins on the date of the termination of the tenancy. This bill is identical to Senate Bill 388.
House Bill 1333 – Landlord and tenant; damage insurance in lieu of security deposit. Amends and reenacts §§ 55.1-1204, 55.1-1206, 55.1-1208, and 55.1-1226 of the Code of Virginia.
- Provides that a landlord may permit a tenant to provide damage insurance coverage meeting certain criteria in lieu of the payment of a security deposit. The bill also caps the total amount of any combination of security deposit and rental insurance coverage required by the landlord to twice the amount of the periodic rent payment and provides that a tenant who initially opts to provide damage insurance in lieu of a security deposit may, at any time without consent of the landlord, opt to pay the full security deposit to the landlord in lieu of maintaining a damage insurance policy.
House Bill 1401 – Landlord and tenant; remedy for unlawful ouster; ex parte issuance of order to recover possession. Amends and reenacts § 55.1-1243 of the Code of Virginia.
- Provides that, upon receipt of a petition for an order to recover possession or restore essential services alleging a tenant’s unlawful ouster from the rental premises and a finding that the petitioner has attempted to provide the landlord with actual notice of the hearing on the petition, the judge of the general district court may issue such order ex parte upon a finding of good cause to do so. The bill further provides that an ex parte order shall be a preliminary order that specifies a date for a full hearing on the merits of the petition, to be held within five days of the issuance of the ex parte order.
House Bill 1420 – Landlord and tenant; charge for late payment of rent; restrictions. Amends and reenacts §§ 55.1-1204 and 55.1-1250 of the Code of Virginia.
Provides that a landlord shall not charge a tenant for late payment of rent unless such charge is provided for in the written rental agreement, and that 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. This bill incorporates House Bill 1669.