2020 exposed the need for eviction prevention measures in Virginia.
Now, a set of rules and relief programs are in place that could help both landlords and tenants cope with financial challenges in the coming year.
When the General Assembly wrapped up its special session last fall, members enacted a set of pandemic-related eviction protections and set aside millions for the state’s Rent and Mortgage Relief Program.
Marty Wegbreit with the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society calls it a ‘pay and stay’ system rather than the old way of ‘go and owe.’ "That’s going to benefit both parties," Wegbreit says. "And rent gets paid, the tenant gets to stay, we protect the public against further spread of COVID-19."
He explains that landlords are required to give tenants who are behind a written notice about their balance, information about rental assistance programs and 14 days to pay what’s due. Larger landlords must also offer the option of a payment plan.
And, starting on the first of this year, a new rule took effect. "Now that we’re into January, the landlord has to be the one who applies for rent relief on behalf of the tenant, unless the tenant’s already done so."
Wegbreit notes that tenant cooperation is necessary and advises renters to have landlords file on their behalf. "It’s actually a lot quicker for landlords to apply for rent relief than for tenants."
A federal moratorium on evictions for nonpayment that was set to expire at the end of December has been extended through the end of January.
As of December 30, 2020, the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program has paid out more than $53.7 million in rent and mortgage payments for 16,762 households. Data from the Department of Housing and Community Development indicates that “several grantees are still in closeout process so the total amount processed and December numbers may increase.”