Central Virginia Legal Aid Society explains rent relief rights

Knowing your rights for rent relief

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Central Virginia Legal Aid Society wants tenants to know their rights when it comes to rent relief programs.

In the last stimulus package, Congress approved about $50 billion for rental assistance to prevent evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic and to help landlords and tenants that are struggling to make ends meet.

A recent article by the Wall Street Journal says some building owners around the country are not participating in this program mainly because they say it comes with too many strings.

“A majority of landlords in Virginia, certainly in the Greater Richmond area, are participating and are doing so willingly because they realize, as I think everyone realizes, that pay and stay is better than go and owe,” said Martin Wegbreit, director of litigation at the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society.

Wegbreit says if a landlord does proceed with an eviction case because you didn’t pay rent, he says they need to follow these steps.

“The landlord, since the middle of November last year, has to give a written 14-day nonpayment notice to the tenant that not only gives information about the rent relief program but also says to the tenant that I will apply on your behalf during this 14-day period unless you have already applied,” Wegbreit says.

The Virginia Apartment Management Association says it’s up to a tenant to respond to the 14-day notice. A tenant’s response to the notice is the only thing that stands between them and an eviction.

Wegbreit also says it’s important that you keep records of your conversations with the landlord about your rent relief application.

If your case ends up in court, Wegbreit says you need to go.

“They need to explain to the judge what the landlord has done, what the landlord has failed to do, what they have done, and that they have not failed to cooperate with the program,” Wegbreit said.

Wegbreit also says not every tenant is eligible for rent relief. He says the programs qualify for people that have lost their income or have increased expenses due to COVID-19.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.