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Key Tenant Protection Expiring; New Protections Going into Effect

June 30th is the last day a key tenant protection will be in force, even as a federal moratorium on evictions for non-payment continues and new state protections go into effect.

Budget language requires landlords to apply for rental assistance within 14 days of an eviction notice. The measure also required the landlord to wait 45 days for the rental assistance application to be processed.

“That protection has been the most substantial protection for tenants during the pandemic,” said Joe Ciszek, an attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center who focuses on preventing evictions.

That protection results in tenants having more notice than before the pandemic and also buys tenants time to pay their rent. If rental assistance applications are successful, their rent is paid.

The federal government put aside a billion dollars to pay rent for people facing eviction. But to get that money, people need to know they can still apply.

“The program will still exist where there will no longer be a legal requirement for the landlord to cooperate in filing for rent relief,” said Ciszek.

Two other tenant protections going into effect on July 1st cover tenants right to redemption and landlords’ ability to enter apartments for maintenance without notice.

Previously there was a limit on how many times a tenant can “redeem” on rent, after eviction proceedings have resulted in a court entering a judgement. Redemption is paying everything owed, which can extend beyond rent and include court and late fees. The new law, from HB2014, will allow redemption up to 48 hours before a scheduled eviction. Tha law eliminates that limit, except for landlords with four or fewer units.

HB1981 requires landlords to give at least 72 hours notice before doing non-emergency maintenance.

The patchwork of laws and protections, with different expirations create a dizzying array of regulations for tenants and landlords.

“The devil’s in the details,” said Ciszek. “Based on where someone is in the process of an eviction and which protections are currently in effect they will be in different levels of risk...It's a difficult time right now for folks to navigate the law as it applies to themselves.”

The Department of Housing and Community Development has a screening tool for rental relief online. But organizations like the Virginia Poverty Law Center also help people take advantage of available tenant protections. Legal aid organizations across the state also assist tenants in navigating housing protections.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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