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One gubernatorial veto would've helped localities address issues with slumlords

Governor Glenn Youngkin has vetoed 26 bills lawmakers put on his desk this year. One of those vetoes was for a bill aimed at cracking down on slumlords.

Mold. Rats. Bad plumbing. Sewage. Christie Marra at the Virginia Poverty Law Center says she's heard from renters across Virginia who have raised concerns about all of these problems and more. She says local governments have limited authority to crack down on slumlords, essentially charging them with a small fine and that's about it. That's why she was working with lawmakers on a bill to give local governments enforcement authority to fix problems.

"And that requires the landlord to come into court and explain why he didn't do it," Marra says. "And if he doesn't have a good reason for not doing it he can be held in civil contempt of court and that can send him to jail."

The bill was introduced by Delegate Cia Price, a Democrat from Newport News. She was able to get the bill out of the House and Senate with bipartisan majorities. But the governor vetoed her bill this week. Price says lawmakers have the power to override that veto.

"Between now and veto session, every resident of Virginia has the right and I think responsibility to reach out to their legislator to tell them what it is they would want to see done," Price says. "And I really think that people understand slumlords and shady contracts should not have a harbor within Virginia."

Overriding a veto requires a supermajority in both chambers, so her bill would need to pick up a few extra votes before lawmakers gather for the veto session later this month.

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

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.