On Your Side: New landlord law benefits Virginia tenants - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

On Your Side: New landlord law benefits Virginia tenants

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Changes to Virginia's laws are giving tenants relief from unregulated landlords in cities and counties across the state.

It's the largest expansion of the Virginia Landlord Tenant Act in 40 years. Advocates say the old law was not only confusing but it also left many renters unprotected.

The changes, which went into effect July 1, impact thousands of people renting from small landlords. The litigation director for Central Virginia Legal Aid Society believes it will stop some unscrupulous practices.

Landlords who rent out three to 10 single-family houses now must respect and follow the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act, and their tenants have the same legal protections as people living in apartments and multi-family dwellings.

Key changes in the law include that landlords who skip inspections so they can accuse the tenant of property damages later and keep their deposit will no longer have the upper hand.

"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 Martin Wegbreit of Central Virginia Legal Aid Society.

Also, the tenant now has a chance to correct minor lease breaches over things like having an unauthorized pet, loud parties or visitors not on the lease. It's harder now for small landlords to evict people for minor reasons that can be resolved, and the tenant has a chance to dispute it in court.

Domestic violence victims no longer have to live in fear of being put out because their abuser caused trouble at their home, if they have a criminal conviction or protective order against the 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 cannot be evicted in Virginia, period, paragraph, end of story," Wegbreit said.

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