By Katarina A. Nguyen
Due to the global pandemic and the corresponding financial impact of COVID-19, Virginia has enacted new laws related to evictions for non-payment of rent for all residential leases that went into effect beginning in July 2020 or later.
Here is a compilation of the latest changes/requirements:
- 14-Day Notice: To proceed with an unlawful detainer for nonpayment of rent, the new rules require that we send a 14-day pay or quit notice (as opposed to a 5-day notice), provide written notice about the VA rent relief program and 2-1-1 Virginia, including contact information.
- Small Landlords (3 or fewer rental properties): Within 14 days, if the tenant does not tell the landlord (in writing) that the tenant will apply for rent relief, then the landlord has to apply on the tenant’s behalf. The landlord can only proceed with the unlawful detainer if: (a) the tenant refused to cooperate and refused to apply, (b) the tenant was ineligible, (c) there are no more funds for rent relief, or (d) the program hasn’t provided its approval or denial within 45 days of submitting the application.
- Big Landlords (4 or more rental properties): The same rules apply for “small landlords,” except that the written notice to the tenant has to include an offer to enter into a payment plan, excluding late fees. That plan would be for the total due as of the date of the notice and last for the lesser of 6 months or the remainder of the lease term. Payments would be made in equal monthly installments. The notice also has to say that if the tenant fails to pay the total due or enter into the offered payment plan or an alternative agreed payment plan within 14 days of receipt of the notice, then the landlord can proceed with the unlawful detainer. The tenant can choose to enter into the payment plan and apply for rent relief. And if the tenant enters into a payment plan and fails to make an installment within 14 days of the due date, then the landlord has to send a new 14-day written notice with the updated total before filing the unlawful detainer. The landlord does not have to offer a new payment plan for the second notice–the tenant only has the right to enter into a payment plan once per lease term.
- Required Filings: Regardless of the basis for the eviction or how old the lease is, all unlawful detainer filings now require a specific Cover Sheet. All Writ of Eviction filings also require a Cover Sheet. Lastly, the COVID affidavits for both unlawful detainers and writs of eviction are still required.
- Statement of Tenant Rights and Responsibilities: All leases must include a Statement of Tenant Rights and Responsibilities.
- Other Resources: Legal Services has a helpful guide that nicely summarizes all of the new changes, with citations to the statutes.
What this means is that the waiting period to seek a unlawful detainer for nonpayment of rent can be up to 59 days between issuing the 14-day notice and waiting 45 days for the rent relief program to approve or deny the application. For a big landlord, that period can be up to 73 days due to the second 14-day notice requirement.
We hope this helps and if we can be helpful, please contact us.