Each year, the General Assemble passes several bills that directly impact landlords through an update of the Virginia Landlord Tenant Act (VRLTA). This year, an unusually high number of new laws will become effective July 1st. Here is a quick summary that landlords should be aware of. Please contact our office (Michele at 703-590-8109) if you have any specific questions about how your lease or rental property may be impacted.
- Late fees capped – late fees are now capped at 10% of the monthly rent or 10% of the total balance due, whichever is less. This law was pushed forward on an emergency basis and has already taken effect.
- Landlords can accept damage insurance instead of a security deposit – this has been a popular option in other states. Our staff will fully research available policies, coverages, and limitations so that we can advise our landlord clients.
- Tenant Remedy by Repair – This bill was originated by the Poverty Law Center to protect tenants from slumlord practices. Tenants will be allowed to make repairs and deduct the cost from their rent IF AND ONLY IF the repairs impact healthy, safety, or habitability and the landlord does not take action in 14 days. Our concern is that this bill has gotten a lot of press with headlines that do not clearly highlight the details of the limitations. We will need to ensure tenants fully understand their rights under this bill and that we continue to provide timely repairs on behalf of our landlords.
- Statement of Rights and Responsibilities – property managers and landlords will need to advise tenants of options for local legal aid before they take any legal action against the tenant.
- Source of Income – New laws prohibit landlords that own 5 or more rental properties from discriminating based on source of income. So, such landlords must consider applications from prospective tenants who are getting rental assistance from a county voucher program or getting Unemployment income.
- Expansion of Protected Classes – Sexual orientation, gender identity, and status as a Veteran, are now protected classes under Virginia’s Fair Housing Laws. We are committed to ensuring compliance with state and federal Fair Housing guidelines. Not only is it the law, it is the right thing to do.
- Furloughed government employees or anyone directly impacted by COVID-19 are protected against eviction proceedings for 90 days after the emergency time period has ended. We suggest that all landlords have contingency plans in case their tenants are impacted by the virus and unable to pay rent, since prompt legal options will not be available.
Many of these bills were introduced before the COVID-19 emergency, and their implementation has a more significant impact on landlords in light of the additional COVID-19 related risks and challenges. Our staff is committed to stay current on any new laws, guidelines, or scenarios that will impact our landlords or our tenants.