Changes to tenant act provide relief from unregulated landlords

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The largest expansion of the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act in 40 years is relief for tenants being squeezed by unregulated landlords. The move impacts hundreds of thousands of tenants, renting from small landlords.

Tenant advocates say the current law is confusing and leaves many people unprotected.

Starting July 1, landlords who rent out three to 10 single-family houses will be controlled by the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act. Their tenants will have legal protections like people living in apartments and multi-family dwellings.

Legal Aid says it will improve the housing stock, cut down on landlord-tenant complaints and help get repairs done.

Some unscrupulous practices will stop.

Litigation Director Martin Wegbreit of Central Virginia Legal Aid Society talks about the top four provisions:

•  Landlords who skip inspections to keep the deposit after they accuse the tenant of damages they can't disprove.

"The landlord is required to keep that proof... do the move-in inspection, do the move out inspection and has 45 days after the tenant has moved out to refund the money or provide an accounting or both," said Wegbreit.

•  Minor lease breaches. The tenant will get the chance to correct the problem.

Landlords have put people out for silly reasons, including loud parties and having a dog that's not on the lease.

•  Unauthorized visitors. Landlords will have to notify the tenant and the guest.

The tenant can also dispute the landlord in court.

"It's totally unregulated. So, the landlord can issue a 'no trespassing' notice. Doesn't have to say why they're issuing the 'no trespassing' notice. There's no mechanism for challenging that notice in court," said Wegbreit.

•  Domestic violence victims. No longer have to live in fear of eviction if they have a criminal conviction or protective order against their abuser.

"Provide written documentation of either of those things to your landlord and your abuser still comes by raising a ruckus, you report that promptly to the landlord... You can not be evicted in Virginia period, paragraph, end of story," said Wegbreit.

It doesn't apply to landlords who rent two houses. Regardless of whether you're in a Virginia city or county, if your landlord rents three to ten single-family houses, the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act will apply, beginning July 1.

The General Assembly voted to expand legal protections to more people which will begin on the
40th anniversary of the act.

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