2020 Special Session

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2020 Special Session Updates

Eviction Diversion and Prevention

HB 5111 (Delegate Cole) / SB 5051 (Senator Hashmi)
These companion bills were proposed at the beginning of Special Session and would prohibit landlords from evicting tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, elements of these bills were rolled into the budget bill, in addition to language from Senator Ebbin’s and Delegate Price’s rent repayment plan bills. The final budget bill (HB5005_4-12#2C) establishes the terms in which an eviction can occur for nonpayment of rent before and after December 31, 2020.

Through December 31, 2020
If a tenant presents a written declaration to their landlord explaining their inability to pay rent as a result of income losses due to COVID-19 (as outlined in the federal CDC eviction moratorium), and makes a good faith effort to utilize resources such as the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP), then the landlord cannot take steps to gain possession of the property for non-payment of rent. Once the budget is enacted, a tenant is no longer required to submit a written declaration to their landlord. The tenant or the landlord can apply for funds from the RMRP. However, during that time, if a tenant refuses to apply for/participate in the RMRP application process, the landlord can proceed to take possession of the premises.

Beginning on January 1, 2021
If the state of emergency is still in effect, a landlord can terminate a tenancy agreement for non-payment of rent if they have notified the tenant about available resources and the tenant does not participant in either applying for or permitting the landlord to apply on their behalf for the rent relief program within 14 days of notice, or the tenant is not approved for rent relief within 45 days of the application date.

HB 5106 (Delegate Cole) – Negative Credit Information
An amendment to the Virginia Landlord Residential and Tenant Act (VLRTA), this bill states that a landlord who owns four or more rental dwelling units cannot deny a person tenancy based solely on payment history or eviction for non-payment of rent during the period beginning March 12,2020 and ending 30 days after the expiration of the State of Emergency. A landlord who denies an applicant tenancy must provide the applicant with a written notice of the statewide legal aid phone number and the opportunity to contest the denial of tenancy, asserting and showing that their non-payment or eviction for non-payment was due to COVID-19 within 7 days of the postmark date. If the landlord does not hear from the tenant via mail, they must also follow-up with the tenant via another means of communication (phone, email, etc.). If the tenant does not take any action, the landlord may proceed with their denial of tenancy. If a landlord does not comply with these provisions, the applicant may recover damages of $1,000.

Budget Bills

HB 5005/SB 5015
During the 2020 session, the Virginia Housing Trust Fund (VHTF) received an increase in funding for the 2020-2022 biennium budget ($30M FY21, $30M FY22). Due to COVID, the Governor unallotted $23M from both FY21 and FY22 prior to the special session. As of the publication of the conference report, $85M has been allocated to the VHTF over the biennium ($55M FY21,$30M FY22), returning the FY21 funding to $30M plus an additional $25M, minus $12.5M which was allocated to the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP).The budget also has a provision that if necessary, additional money from this source can be used for the Rent and Mortgage Relief Program.