Housing Stability During COVID-19

Protections Against Eviction During COVID-19

There are short term protections for tenants who have fallen behind on rent. These protections are about (1) the notices landlords must give tenants, (2) government rental assistance, and (3) payment plans to catch up on rent.
  1. Notices from Landlord to the Tenant for Unpaid Rent
    • The notices from your landlord for unpaid rent must give you 14 days to pay (not 5 days, like usual) before a landlord can take any action to evict the tenant.
    • The notice for unpaid rent must also include information on the Virginia Rent Relief Program (RRP), including how to apply. This requirement expires July 1, 2021.
    • If your landlord owns 5 or more rental units, they must offer you a payment plan to catch up on unpaid rent. (See below for details.) This requirement expires July 1, 2022.
  2. Applications for Government Assistance (Expires July 1, 2021)
    • For any eviction filed before July 1, 2021, your landlord cannot take any action to evict you for unpaid rent unless you:
      • refuse to apply for RRP assistance AND
      • refuse to cooperate with the landlord in applying for RRP on your behalf.
    • Your landlord is required to file an application for RRP rent assistance on behalf of tenants who owe rent. EXCEPTION: landlords do not have to apply if you say you are applying yourself.
    • Your landlord can take action to evict you for unpaid rent if one of the following happens:
      • You refuse to apply for RRP assistance AND refuse to cooperate with the landlord in applying for RRP on your behalf;
      • Your RRP application is not approved 45 days after it was submitted;
      • The RRP program says you are ineligible for RRP assistance; or
      • RRP Program says there are no more RRP funds available.
  3. Payment Plans for Back Rent (Expires July 1, 2022)
    • If your landlord owns 5 or more rental units, the landlord must offer you a payment plan to catch up on rent. Required terms of the payment plans:
      • No late fees.
      • Tenants can accept the payment plan and still apply for RMRP assistance at the same time.
      • The plan must offer the tenant 6 months of equal monthly payments. If the lease ends sooner, the plan offers equal monthly payments for the time left on the lease.)
      • If a tenant misses a monthly plan payment, the landlord must give notice and 14 days to make the missed payment.
      • The landlord only has to enter into a payment plan one time per lease period.
    • To get on a payment plan the tenant must:
      • Respond to the landlord within 14 days of getting their notice offering the payment plan.
      • Give the landlord a signed statement that they have lost income and/or had increased expenses due to the COVID-19 emergency.
      • Enter into the plan in writing.

CDC Eviction Moratorium

In September 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order to protect some tenants from being evicted for falling behind on their rent. The original order ran through December 2000, but it has been extended through July 31, 2021. But the protections are not automatic. You must take steps as a tenant to protect your rights.

What does the moratorium do?

  • It prohibits the landlord from taking steps to evict a protected tenant. The landlord should not file in court to evict you or otherwise try to force you out, and they are definitely prohibited from getting the sheriff to schedule an eviction for unpaid rent.
 

Who does it protect?

  • It protects tenants who give their landlord a signed an affidavit (or “declaration”) stating they meet these requirements:
    • If you are evicted, you will become homeless, forced to live in cramped and shared quarters, or rely on a hotel/motel.
    • Your annual income is be $99,000 or less ($198,000 for a married couple), you’ve received a stimulus check, or you weren’t required to report any income in 2019.
    • You are trying to at least pay partial rent.
    • You’ve tried to get available government assistance to pay rent.
    • You can’t pay full rent because of a substantial loss of income or big medical expenses.
 

Is there any fine print?

  • You can still be evicted for non-rent lease violations and dangerous or criminal activity.
  • The moratorium does not cancel your rent. You still owe what your lease requires.
 

How do I use the moratorium’s protections?

  • First, continue to pay as much of your rent as you can reasonably afford, given your other fixed expenses.
  • Second, apply for government rent assistance and keep a paper record of your efforts.
  • Third, you must sign a declaration (affidavit) and give it to your landlord. This is a legally binding document, so be truthful.
    • Here is a link to the declaration.
    • Each adult on the lease should complete one.
    • Keep a signed copy with your paper record.
    • Call the Eviction Legal Helpline before you sign if you have questions about whether it applies to you.

Get a 60-day Delay In Your Eviction Case

If you have lost income since March 12, 2020 and your landlord sues to evict you over unpaid rent, you can ask the court to delay the eviction case for 60 days.

  1. Show up to your first court date.
  2. Bring written proof of your lost income (paystub showing reduces earnings, furlough notice, a notice that your position is “nonessential”, bank statements showing the income loss, or a signed affidavit that you lost wages due to COVID-19).
  3. When the judge asks if you are behind on rent or dispute the landlord’s claim, specifically ask for a 60-day delay because you have lost income during the pandemic.

You can sign this cover sheet prepared by VPLC and give it to the judge with your written proof of lost income. It explains to the judge exactly what you are asking for and why they should give you the 60-day delay.

This option is available until September 28, 2021.

Does the CARES Act Protect Me?

The federal government passed the CARES Act in March 2020, including protections against eviction during summer 2020 for unpaid rent. Depending on the type of housing you live in and why you may be facing eviction, you may still be protected. While Virginia law only requires landlords to give tenants as little as 14 days of notice before suing for eviction, if you are covered by the CARES Act you are entitled to 30 days notice.

Is my rental unit covered?

  • The CARES Act covers federally subsidized housing.This includes public housing, Section 8 or Rural Housing vouchers, HUD or USDA subsidized housing, and tax credit or “LIHTC” housing.
  • The Act also covers you if your property has federally guaranteed mortgage (with HUD, USDA, the VA, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac).
 
 

My landlord is threatening to evict me.

  • If your housing is covered under the CARES Act, your landlord must give you at least 30 days written notice before filing in court to evict you.
  • If you’re in subsidized housing, you may have other protections and should consult an attorney.
 
 

Can my landlord charge late fees?

  • The CARES Act protected you from late fees between April and July of 2020, but for other months, your landlord can charge you if your lease says so.

I Need Help with Rent NOW!

There is assistance available if you’re behind on rent. The Virginia Rent Relief Program (RRP) is short-term assistance for rent payments. If you’ve lost income since March 2020, especially due to COVID-19, you should apply.
 
  • Talk to your landlord!
    • Ask your landlord for a plan to pay off what you owe. Get it in writing and make certain that it includes:
      • a statement of how much you owe;
      • a payment schedule with due dates;
      • details on what your debt includes (rent, late fees, etc.);
      • any discounts for paying off early;
      • a written guarantee that your landlord won’t take steps to evict you so long as you are complying with the plan.
 
  • I have a Section 8 (“Housing Choice”) voucher
    • If you have a Section 8 voucher, you may qualify for a hardship exemption. This includes a risk of eviction because you cannot afford your rent, your income has changed, you have lost employment, or have had a death in the family. If you qualify and have requested an exemption, the Public Housing Authority (PHA) must suspend your rent beginning the month that you ask for help, and continue suspending it until the PHA determines whether your hardship is temporary or long term.
 
  • Eviction Diversion Pilot Programs.
    • In July of 2020, courts in the cities of Danville, Hampton, Petersburg and Richmond started an Eviction Diversion Program. This allows qualified tenants to enter into a court-mandated payment plan to get the case dismissed.
    • For more information about the Eviction Diversion Program, contact your local court or legal aid program.