RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginians a few days late on their rent may soon be able to breathe easier, as the Virginia Senate will take up a bill to extend the grace period for tenants to pay their rent from 5 to 14 days.

The bill, patroned by state Senator Jennifer McClellan (D – Richmond), is identical to one filed by Delegate Marcia Price (D – Newport News) in the House of Delegates.

The proposal would make a simple change to Virginia’s tenancy laws, extending the grace period from five to 14 days between when rent is due and when landlords can file for eviction.

“The purpose of this is to deal with what is very clearly an eviction problem in Virginia,” Senator Mamie Locke (D – Hampton), a supporter of the bill, said. “Fourteen days gives tenants more time to get another paycheck, borrow money from family or access rental assistance.”

The bill was moved forward to the Senate floor on a 9-4 vote, winning the support of one of the committee’s Republican members.

“Is there any data that says how many evictions could’ve been prevented if they had had those extra days?” asked Senator Bryce Reeves (R – Louisa).

Christie Marra, a member of the Virginia Poverty Law Center, was called to testify in response to the senator’s question.

“We don’t have that specific data, but we do know that there were approximately 30,000 eviction judgements entered [in 2018 and 2019] for one months’ rent or less,” she said, adding that the reasonable inference was that “thousands” of those could have been prevented if the tenants had been given time to receive another paycheck.

The bill also drew opposition from several organizations representing Virginia landlords, who argued that extending the timeline could lead tenants to accrue more debt that would “follow them into future housing searches.”

Senator Jennifer McClellan dismissed those concerns, pointing out that the 14-day grace period had already been instituted temporarily during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and “the sky didn’t fall.”

But, she said, when it expired alongside other eviction protections, evictions rose sharply again, a claim backed up by recent data from the RVA Eviction Lab, which tracks eviction rates statewide.

“This bill is just intended, as we did during the COVID pandemic, to give tenants another pay period in order to try to avoid eviction,” McClellan said.

The bill passed with support from all of the committee’s Democratic members, with one Republican member joining them in favor and another abstaining.