Even the most confident of landlords have faced difficulty in tracking the state of residential eviction law in Virginia since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between Federal eviction moratoriums and the protections passed by the General Assembly, the procedure for obtaining the eviction of a residential tenant have been in flux. However, many of the protections for residential tenants that have complicated the eviction process expired July 1, 2022.
In particular, the General Assembly passed budget bill H.B. 7001 during a special session on August 10, 2021 which included a requirement that “no landlord shall terminate a residential tenancy, or take any action to obtain possession of a dwelling unit, for nonpayment of rent” if a tenant had experienced financial hardship, “directly or indirectly,” during or due to the coronavirus pandemic. The sole exception for a Virginia landlord to evict a residential tenant who refused to pay rent was for the landlord to first satisfy a series of new notice provisions and then, if the tenant took no action, attempt to apply for rental assistance on behalf of the tenant with the Virginia Rent Relief Program (RRP). At a minimum, landlords were forced to wait 45 days after the completed application to the RRP before beginning the action to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent. If the landlord missed any of the required notice provisions, the landlord could not cure the lawsuit with a later notice; instead, the case had to be dismissed and the lawsuit brought again after proper notice. Critically, these provisions applied to both large commercial landlords and landlords who only owned a single property.
In addition to the expiration of these eviction protections, the landlord’s remedies under the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act (VRLTA) also update on July 1, 2022. So what steps are now required for a landlord to begin the eviction process for a residential tenant who refuses to pay rent? Generally, if rent is unpaid when due, the landlord must only serve a notice of the unpaid rent and of the landlord’s intention to terminate the rental agreement if rent is not paid within a five-day period. If the tenant still doesn’t pay, the landlord can file an eviction proceeding called an unlawful detainer after the expiration of the five-day period. Of course, individual circumstances vary, so any landlord contemplating how best to proceed in evicting a tenant should consult with a knowledgeable attorney.
One thing is for certain, though: as of July 1, 2022, it is much easier for a landlord to quickly bring an action to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent – a fact that both landlords and tenants should keep in mind.
If you are interested in learning more about these updates and the rights of both tenants and landlords as they relate to eviction matters, real estate attorney Adam Nelson will be speaking at a Richmond Property Owners Association meeting July 12th, 2022 and the event is open to both members and non-members.