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Changes To The Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act ("VRLTA")

The purpose of this memorandum is to inform you about the recent updates to the laws governing landlord-tenant relationships in Virginia. If you are a landlord or tenant, please go through the attached updates to determine if any of these changes apply to you. Be advised that the latest changes take effect on July 1, 2019.

 

New Statute

Content

Amends and Reenacts

House Bill 1660

(Lease Requirements)

Provides that if a rental agreement does not require the tenant to obtain renter's insurance, the landlord must provide a written notice to the tenant, prior to the execution of the rental agreement, stating that (i) the landlord is not responsible for the tenant's personal property, (ii) the landlord's insurance coverages do not cover the tenant's personal property, and (iii) if the tenant wishes to protect his personal property, he should obtain renter's insurance. The bill also requires such notice to inform the tenant that any such renter's insurance obtained by the tenant does not cover flood damage and advise the tenant to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or visit the websites for FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program or the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's Flood Risk Information System to obtain information regarding whether the property is located in a special flood hazard area. The bill provides that any failure of the landlord to provide such notice does not affect the validity of the rental agreement

§§ 55-225.24 and 55-248.7:2 of the Code of Virginia

House Bill 1898

(Court Procedure)

Extends the amount of time that a tenant may have an unlawful detainer dismissed to two days before a writ of eviction is delivered to be executed if the tenant pays all amounts claimed on the summons in unlawful detainer to the landlord, the landlord's attorney, or the court.

§§ 55-248.4, 55-248.7, and 55-248.31 of the Code of Virginia

House Bill 1922

(Court Procedure)

Provides that if an initial hearing on a summons for unlawful detainer cannot be held within 21 days from the date of filing, it shall be held as soon as practicable, but not later than 30 days after the date of the filing. The bill further provides that an order of possession for the premises in an unlawful detainer action shall not be entered unless the plaintiff or the plaintiff's attorney or agent has presented a copy of a proper termination notice that the court admits into evidence.

The bill allows a plaintiff to amend the amount alleged to be due and owing in an unlawful detainer action to request all amounts due and owing as of the date of a hearing on the action and to further amend such an amount to include additional amounts that become due and owing prior to the final disposition of a pending unlawful detainer action. The bill prohibits a plaintiff from filing a subsequent and additional unlawful detainer summons for such additional amounts.

§ 8.01-126 of the Code of Virginia

House Bill 1923

(Attorney's Fees)

Provides that a tenant is entitled to reasonable attorney fees when a tenant successfully raises as a defense the landlord's noncompliance with the rental agreement and the court enters judgment in favor of the tenant.

§ 55-248.31 of the Code of Virginia

House Bill 2007

(Court Procedure)

Changes the terminology from writ of possession to writ of eviction for the writ executed by a sheriff to recover real property pursuant to an order of possession. The bill specifies that an order of possession remains effective for 180 days after being granted by the court and clarifies that any writ of eviction not executed within 30 days of its issuance shall be vacated as a matter of law, and no further action shall be taken by the clerk.

§§ 8.01-128, 8.01-129, 8.01-293, 8.01-470, 8.01-471, 16.1-69.40, 17.1-272, 55-225.01, 55-225.1, 55-246.1, 55-248.3:1, 55-248.35, 55-248.38:1, 55-248.38:2, and 58.1-3947 of the Code of Virginia

House Bill 2054

(Lease Requirements)

Requires a landlord to offer the tenant a written rental agreement containing the terms governing the rental of the dwelling unit and setting forth the terms and conditions of the landlord tenant relationship. The bill provides that in the event a written rental agreement is not offered by the landlord, a rental tenancy shall be deemed to exist by operation of law and establishes the terms and conditions of that tenancy.

 

§§ 55-248.4 and 55-248.7 of the Code of Virginia

House Bill 2262

(Court Procedure)

Clarifies that for the purposes of signing pleadings and other papers and obtaining a judgment for possession or for rent or damages in general district court, the managing agent of a landlord may act on behalf of the business, provided that he is acting pursuant to the written property management agreement.

 

§§ 16.1-88.03, 55-246.1, and 55-248.4 of the Code of Virginia

House Bill 2287

(Court Procedure)

Specifies that a lease agreement or other written document conveying a non-freehold estate in land is not invalid, unenforceable, or subject to repudiation by the parties to such agreement on account of, or otherwise affected by, the fact that the conveyance of the estate was not in the form of a deed.

Current law requires a lease for a term of more than five years to be in the form of a deed. The bill further replaces all references throughout the Code to "deed of lease" with the term "lease."

 

§§ 55-2, 55-57, 55-76, 55-77, 55-79, and 58.1-807 of the Code of Virginia.

House Bill 2304

(Lease Requirements)

Requires a landlord that has obtained renter's insurance coverage on behalf of his tenants to include, as part of the summary of the insurance policy or certificate evidencing the coverage as currently required by law, a statement regarding whether the insurance policy contains a waiver of subrogation provision. The bill provides that any failure of the landlord to provide such summary or certificate, or to make available a copy of the insurance policy, shall not affect the validity of the rental agreement.

§ 55-248.7:2 of the Code of Virginia

House Bill 2410

(Non-Resident Landlords)

Limits the applicability of the requirement for a nonresident landlord to appoint a resident agent to nonresident individuals who own and lease real property in the Commonwealth. Under current law, the requirement applies to corporations, partnerships, business trusts, associations, and other legal entities. The bill also clarifies that if the resident agent appointed by the nonresident property owner is a corporation, limited liability company, partnership, or other entity, it must be authorized to transact business in the Commonwealth. In addition, the bill clarifies that the specification of ownership of four or more units applies to residential property and not commercial property

§ 55-218.1 of the Code of Virginia

House Bill 2655

(Eviction Diversion Program)

**Program**

Establishes the Eviction Diversion Pilot Program (the Program), consisting of specialized dockets within the existing structure of the general district courts for the cities of Danville, Hampton, Petersburg, and Richmond. The Program is established as a pilot program that has a delayed effective date of July 1, 2020, and that expires on July 1, 2023. The purpose of the Program is to reduce the number of evictions of low-income persons. Parties to an unlawful detainer action in participating jurisdictions will be directed to participate in the Pilot Program upon certain findings by the court.

Amends the Code of Virginia by adding in Chapter 13.2 of Title 55 an article numbered 7, consisting of sections numbered 55-248.40:1 through 55-248.40:4

Senate Bill 1445

(Court Procedure)

Extends the amount of time that a tenant may have an unlawful detainer dismissed to two days before a writ of eviction is delivered to be executed if the tenant pays all amounts claimed on the summons in unlawful detainer to the landlord, the landlord's attorney, or the court

Note: This appears to be the same language used for House Bill 1898, but it amends and reenacts different sections of the law.

§ 55-248.34:1 of the Code of Virginia.

Senate Bill 1626

(Court Procedure)

Provides that for an appeal in an unlawful detainer case, the defendant shall post an appeal bond into the general district court in the amount of outstanding rent, late charges, attorney fees, and any other charges or damages due, as contracted for in the rental agreement, due as of the date the appeal is filed with the court. Once the appeal is perfected, the defendant shall pay the rental amount as contracted for to the plaintiff on or before the fifth day of each month. The bill provides that if such amount is not paid, the judge, upon motion of the plaintiff, shall enter judgment for the outstanding amounts due and an order of possession without further hearings.

§ 16.1-107 of the Code of Virginia.

 

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