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What Are Your Rights as a Virginia Landlord During COVID-19?

What Are Your Rights as a Virginia Landlord During COVID-19?

Being a landlord requires familiarity with relevant local and state housing rules. However, the impact of COVID-19 has further complicated the rules and processes surrounding owning and renting a property because many tenants have enhanced rights, and courts are either backed up or possibly unwilling to hold tenants to their typical requirements.

Tenants who have had their income impacted by the pandemic might attempt to postpone eviction cases for 60 days. They must simply provide the court with proof that they are not receiving wages or payments associated with the state of emergency declared by the governor.

Under the Governor’s Declared State of Emergency, What Must a Landlord Do If a Tenant Is Late on One or More Rent Payments?

Landlords rely on tenants to pay their rent on time. Per Governor Ralph Northam’s declared state of emergency, landlords must take some specific actions if a tenant is late on one or more rent payments:

  • Provide written notice to your tenant of the amount due and what they owe.
  • Give your tenant 14 days to pay the amount due and owed, make another payment arrangement, or enter into a payment plan.
  • Include details about providing a signed statement certifying additional expenses or income loss due to a declared state of emergency.
  • Explain the tenant’s ability to enter into a repayment plan for back due rent in the written notice.
  • The payments must be equal over the shorter of these two periods; the end of the lease term or the shorter of 6 months.
  • The landlord cannot include late fees in the repayment plan.

If a renter makes payments on time, as a landlord, you can proceed with an eviction filing hearing for other lease violations, as long as you do not use them as a proxy for the tenant not paying rent.

What Is Covered by the CARES Act Rental Payment Protections?

The CARES Act, which President Trump signed into law in March 2020, provided 120 days of eviction relief for those tenants living in federally backed housing. The eviction moratorium began on March 27, 2020, and ended on July 24, 2020, meaning that landlords could not serve renters an eviction notice until July 25th, 2020.

Due to additional funds given to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for housing vouchers, housing for the elderly, rent assistance, and public housing support, your tenants could contact HUD rental assistance.

The CARES Act extended eviction protections until January 31, 2021, providing an additional $25 billion in rent assistance support to those who had lost income due to the pandemic.

The CDC’s Unprecedented Role in Extending Eviction Moratoriums

On September 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) imposed a nationwide temporary federal moratorium on residential evictions for nonpayment of rent. The order’s stated purpose is to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, specifically by preventing homelessness and overcrowded housing conditions resulting from eviction.

The action, which followed an Executive Order directing the CDC to consider such a measure, is unprecedented, both in terms of the federal reach into the traditional state and local governance of landlord-tenant law and its use of a public health authority for this purpose. The national eviction moratorium took effect less than two weeks after the CARES Act eviction protections expired on January 31, 2021. The CDC’s most recent order extends the residential eviction ban until July 31, 2021.

When can a Virginia Landlord Proceed with an Evictions Filing?

Despite giving a grace period and as much support as possible to tenants, a Virginia landlord might still need to move forward with an eviction. Since most of these orders expired on March 31st, 2021, if you have attempted to work with your tenants and have been unable to resolve the situation, be prepared to file and go to court with the support of an experienced attorney.

A civil lawyer can assist you with navigating this complex process. Our team at PJI Law, PLC, knows these complicated issues and can support and prepare you for what to expect. A tenant might still bring up impacts of COVID-19 in court during eviction hearings, so an experienced attorney can advise you of the different requirements and what to expect.

I’ve Filed an Evictions Lawsuit for Non-Payment of Rent in Virginia. What’s Next?

After you have already filed an eviction case, it’s in your best interest to retain an attorney. Once a Virginia landlord has filed a Summons for Unlawful Detainer In the appropriate General District Court court and paid filing fees, the summons must be served on the tenant by a professional process server or a sheriff.

Then an eviction hearing must be scheduled within a few weeks after the summons is filed with the court. If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, they will issue a writ of eviction, and the eviction process will proceed. A judge could issue the writ of eviction as soon as ten days after entering the judgment in favor of the landlord.

If the writ of eviction is not requested within 180 days, however, the landlord will have to start the eviction process all over again. A sheriff typically delivers the writ to the tenant within 15 to 30 days of receiving the writ of eviction. The tenant then has 72 hours to vacate the property before the sheriff can return to evict them.

Contact PJI Law, PLC

Our civil lawyer team at PJI Law, PLC, has extensive experience supporting landlords who find themselves in these predicaments of having to navigate through COVID-19 and protect their investments and expectations. Our firm provides efficient, top-quality legal services in estate planning, probate, business law, and civil litigation. We focus on each client’s unique story while we offer personalized service and attention. Our professionalism, experience, and dedication manifest in our excellent reputation and stellar client reviews.

Schedule a consultation with PJI Law, PLC, today at (703) 865-6100 to learn more about how we can help you proceed with an eviction case.

Copyright © 2021. PJI Law, PLC. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

PJI Law, PLC
3900 Jermantown Rd #220
Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 865-6100
https://www.pjilaw.com

What Can Virginia Landlords Do About Tenants Who Are Behind on Rent in the Age of COVID-19?

Whereas commercial landlords can often utilize “self-help” and evict a non-paying tenant by changing the locks or, in some instances, shutting off utilities, landlords with residential tenants must use the court system by filing a Summons for Unlawful Detainer in order to evict a tenant.

Beginning March 16, 2020, all judicial evictions were frozen due to the judicial state of emergency declared by the Supreme Court of Virginia. Since then, there have been all kinds of changes that can be immensely confusing for those who, unlike landlord-tenant attorneys, don’t have it as part of their job descriptions to keep tabs on legislative and judicial updates.

A freeze on evictions would inconvenience and frustrate landlords during ordinary times, but a freeze on evictions during a period when many tenants are suffering financially and missing rent payments can cripple a landlord still facing monthly mortgage bills. Certainly both landlords and tenants are facing and dealing with unique hardships during the pandemic. If possible, both parties should explore and consider every possible way to resolve difficulties and avoid evictions. However, a resolution is not always possible; so what remedies do landlords during the eviction freeze?

If negotiations fail, the best thing a landlord can do is to have their unlawful detainer proceeding filed with the court now and scheduled on the soonest date permitted by the court. General District Courts have been accepting unlawful detainer filings since March 16th, and these matters have been piling up in the clerk’s office. For example, in one standard-sized General District Court in Virginia, nearly 200 unlawful detainer lawsuits were filed in the seven weeks following March 16th.

Many of the landlords with pending matters have had their initial return dates continued by the court, or have had to select new dates, due to extensions of the judicial emergency. A law firm familiar with the peculiarities of your local court would be well positioned to strategize with you about how to improve chances of getting to the “front of the line”.

PJI law has represented landlords in Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Prince William County, Arlington County, the City of Alexandria and other Northern Virginia jurisdictions in matters ranging from unpaid rent, to evictions, to property damage, to fraudulent representation. If you need advice on the best course of action or need assistance in getting your matter through court efficiently in light of the long queue that has built up, please schedule a consultation either in person, on the phone, or by video to discuss your matter. You can reach us at (703) 865-6100 or at landlords@pjilaw.com.

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