Herring outlines updated COVID-19 tenant protections
Attorney General Mark R. Herring is outlining the various state and federal tenant protections that are currently in place to help Virginians stay in their homes as the deadly COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the Commonwealth.
“The sad reality is that too many Virginians across the Commonwealth continue to find themselves in tough financial situations because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and they may have a hard time making ends meet or paying their rent,” Herring said. “I want to help all Virginians and their families stay in their homes during this ongoing global health crisis, which is why it’s so important to make sure that tenants stay up to date on eviction protections, as they have changed over the past year.”
Virginia Eviction Protections Effective Through June 30, 2022
- If someone in a tenant’s household has experienced a financial hardship related to COVID-19, their landlord may not take any action to get possession or evict for nonpayment of rent unless the landlord:
- Gives tenant a 14-day nonpayment notice informing the tenant about the Rent Relief Program (RRP), and
- Unless the tenant pays in full, enters into a payment plan, or has already has applied for RRP, the landlord must apply for RRP on the tenant’s behalf within the 14-day period.
- Landlords must cooperate with RRP applications by providing all information and documents needed.
- After application for rent relief funds, landlords may not take any action to evict unless:
- The tenant is not eligible for RRP, or
- The tenant refuses to cooperate with RRP application, or
- RRP funds are not approved in writing within 45 days of the first completed application, or
- For any subsequent application, RRP funds are not approved in writing within 14 days of a complete application, or
- RRP funds are depleted.
- If a tenant is complying with a written payment plan, their landlord may not evict for nonpayment of rent.
Virginia Rent Relief Program
- Tenants may apply for the statewide Rent Relief Program at www.dhcd.virginia.gov/rmrp.
- Chesterfield County tenants should apply for rent relief with Chesterfield Emergency Rent Assistance (CERA) at org/chesterfield-emergency-rent-and-utility-assistance-cera.
- Tenants in Fairfax County can apply for rent relief through Coordinated Services Planning at fairfaxcounty.gov/health-humanservices/eviction-prevention
- Basic eligibility requirements:
- Household income at or below 80% Area Median Income
- Rent amount at or below 150% Fair Market Rent
- Loss of income related directly or indirectly to COVID-19, or increase in expenses related directly or indirectly to COVID-19
- Required documentation:
- Rental agreement (valid lease or alternative lease documentation)
- Tenant/landlord ledger
- Tenant income documentation
- Landlord’s Virginia W-9
- RRP landlord/tenant agreement
- Rent arrears can be covered back to April 1, 2020, plus current rent and up to 3 months’ future rent for a maximum of 18 months. Payments are made directly to landlords.
- A landlord that refuses to accept rent relief may be illegally discriminating on the basis of a tenant’s source of funds. You can report suspected housing discrimination to the Virginia Fair Housing Office: dpor.virginia.gov/FairHousing.
Other State Protections
- A landlord may not evict a tenant without following court eviction process. That landlord first sends a written notice and next the landlord files an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit. The landlord must get a court order of possession, followed by a Writ of Eviction.
- Through September 28, 2021, tenants in eviction lawsuits for non-payment of rent can get a case postponed for 60 days by coming to court with written proof of reduced income due to COVID-19.
- After an eviction lawsuit for nonpayment of rent, tenants have the right to pay to a zero balance on or before the court date and have the lawsuit dismissed. After that, tenants have the right to pay to a zero balance up to 48 hours before a Sheriff’s eviction and have the eviction cancelled. If the landlord has 5 or more rentals, tenants may use these rights at any time. Otherwise, tenants may use these rights only once in a 12-month period.
Federal CDC Eviction Protections Effective Through Oct. 3
- On Aug. 3, the CDC issued a new temporary halt in residential evictionsin communities with substantial or high levels of transmission of COVID-19.
- To qualify for the CDC eviction protections, a tenant must prove:
- They have used their best efforts to obtain all available government rent assistance.
- They are below income requirements:
- Earned no more than $99,000 ($198,000 if joint return) in 2020, or
- Expects to earn no more than $99,000 ($198,000 if joint return) in 2021, or
- Not required to report any income to the IRS in 2020, or
- Received stimulus check.
- They are unable to pay rent due to income loss or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.
- They will use best efforts to make timely partial rent payments considering other expenses to be paid.
- They would become homeless or need to move into close quarters (double up) if evicted.
- Must provide CDC Declarationto landlord. Note that a previously given CDC Declaration remains in effect as long as information remains truthful and the tenant lives in locality where COVID-19 transmission rate is high or substantial.
- Current CDC eviction protections only apply to:
- Counties and Independent Cities where COVID-19 transmission rate is high or substantial.
- These CDC protections do not applywhere COVID-19 transmission rate is moderate or low.
- A locality which moves into a transmission rate of high or substantial, from a rate of moderate or low, it will immediately trigger CDC eviction protections.
- A locality which moves into a transmission rate of moderate or low for 14 consecutive days, from a rate of high or substantial, will lose CDC eviction protections after the 14 days.
- Transmission rates by locality: cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view.
- Virginia Lawyer Referral Serviceor 800-552-7977
- To connect with your local legal aid office: 1-866-LEGLAID
- The Eviction Legal Helpline: 1-833-NOEVICT