VAMA News, Forms and Publications: Latest in Legislative

A Recap of Laws Changing July 1

Tuesday, June 30, 2020  
Posted by: Amanda Hamilton
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Source of Funds

Starting tomorrow, ‘source of funds’ will be a protected class under the Virginia Fair Housing Act.

 

This means that a manager will no longer be able to answer, “we do not accept Housing Choice Vouchers,” if asked by a prospective applicant without risking a trip to the Fair Housing Board. While voucher applicants may still be held to the same income, credit, and criminal history screening criteria as market-rate applicants, Virginia’s housing providers, with some narrow exceptions, can no longer deny an applicant based solely on the fact that they are using a Housing Choice Voucher, sometimes known as a ‘Section 8’ voucher.

 

VAMA has released a comprehensive operational guidance document on ‘SOF’, which members can access here.

 

Legal Info in Termination Notices

Starting tomorrow, any termination notice served to a resident who receives federal, state, or local housing assistance must contain the information to contact Virginia’s statewide Legal Aid services. VAMA members should note that this information will be included automatically on any termination notices within the Blue Moon suite of documents.

 

The information to be included is the phone number and website below:

(866) 534-5234

valegalaid.org/find-legal-help

 

Eviction Diversion Programs

Starting tomorrow, new, mandatory eviction diversion programs will begin in the General District Courts of Petersburg, Danville, and Hampton. Richmond city has had a pilot version of this program running since 2019, and Beth Godwin-Jones of Godwin-Jones and Price has recorded an interview to discuss what housing providers in these jurisdictions should be looking out for as they begin being instituted. Watch the video.

 

Tenants’ Statement of Rights and Responsibilities

Starting tomorrow, prospective tenants will need to be provided with this statement and sign a form acknowledging such.

 

Pursuant to 2020’s HB393, VAMA worked with a broad group of stakeholders to formulate a Statement of Tenants’ Rights and Responsibilities under the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. This statement, a plain language summary of the VRLTA, will need to be provided to all prospective tenants at time of leasing and renewal.

 

Further, parties to the lease must sign the acknowledgement form which acknowledges receipt of the statement. For leases entered into after July 1, if a prospective tenant doesn’t receive this statement, a landlord will be unable to maintain a court action against them until they have received it. View the documents.

 

Repair and Deduct

Starting tomorrow, residents will have new recourse to have serious issues in their units addressed on their own, provided that their landlord has not begun to address them within 14 days of notice.

 

Pursuant to 2020’s SB905, if a resident alerts their landlord to a condition that affects life, health, or safety and the landlord has not begun to address the issue within 14 days, the resident will be able to hire a licensed contractor to perform the repairs. They could then deduct the invoiced amount (up to $1,500 or one month’s rent, whichever is higher) which was spent on those repairs from their rent.

 

Damage Insurance in lieu of Deposit

Starting tomorrow, formal language in the Code of Virginia will allow Virginia’s property owners to accept insurance products in lieu of a Security Deposit. This idea has been around for a while, but new products on the market are making it a more attractive option for property owners, and one company which offers these services, Rhino, has been making nationwide efforts in state legislatures to formally pronounce these new products legal to use. This is pursuant to 2020’s HB1333.

 

Victims of Domestic Violence

Starting tomorrow, victims of domestic violence whose abuse has included financial abuse will be able to provide mitigating evidence to a housing provider upon application to offset the effects that such financial abuse had on their credit.

 

Such an applicant may self-declare their status as a victim of domestic violence and provide documentation from a court, an attorney, or a sexual or domestic violence support agency to show that their adverse credit situation is not of their making, and housing providers must and should take that information into account during their screening of these applicants. This is pursuant to 2020’s HB99.

 

Some Reminders:

Two bills were amended at the General Assembly’s Veto Session in April to apply to housing providers as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. These two bills dealt with evictions and late fee limits.

 

Late Fee Limits

As of April 22, late fees are limited in the Commonwealth to either 10% of the total amount owed or 10% of the periodic monthly rent, whichever is lesser. If this change had not been made already, retroactive action may be necessary to bring your accounting into line with the law. This is pursuant to 2020’s HB1420, which was amended at Reconvened Session.

 

Eviction Protections for COVID-19

 HB340, a bill originally intended to codify and normalize the General Assembly’s efforts to protect furloughed federal government workers in cases of government shutdown, was also chosen as the vehicle for COVID-19-related eviction protections.

 

Per the amendments made to the bill prior to the April 22 Reconvened Session of the General Assembly, a person who has been filed upon for eviction can request a 60-day continuance in court upon presenting written evidence that they have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Residents will be able to access this 60-day continuance for up to 90 days after the end of Governor Northam’s declared state of emergency regarding the virus.

 

This is a rundown of the most salient laws that are affecting the apartment industry starting tomorrow. If you have any questions about anything you’ve just read, please don’t hesitate to reach out to VAMA's Manager of Government Affairs, Tommy Herbert, at tommy@vamaonline.org.