RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed a revised state budget Wednesday that protects struggling Virginians from evictions and utility shutoffs through, at least, the end of the year.
“This budget gives us the tools we need to contend with the challenges brought on by the ongoing pandemic,” the governor said. “I am grateful to our partners in the General Assembly for their work in crafting a revised spending plan that protects the most vulnerable Virginians, stays true to our values, and puts the Commonwealth in a strong position to weather this public health crisis.”
The revised budget allots $100 million to go toward protections for utility customers facing financial hardship due to the pandemic. It also puts in place a moratorium on utility shutoffs, including water and electricity, which will stay in effect until the governor determines economic and health conditions have improved or 60 days after the state of emergency ends.
Virginians are also protected from evictions under this budget through Dec. 31. Landlords and tenants must apply for rental assistance through the Virginia Rent and Mortgage and Relief Program.
After Jan. 1, the budget requires landlords and tenants to work together to access rent assistance before proceeding with an eviction.
The new budget provisions only protects people being evicted for non-payment and not for social violations such as, having more people than specified on the lease and criminal activity.
National protections against evictions
The under the CDC order, Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19, evictions are stopped under certain circumstances from Sept. 4 to Dec. 31. The order prevents a landlord or property owner from pursuing an eviction for nonpayment of rent if a person meets the following criteria:
- Tried to obtain all possible government assistance
- Earns under a certain annual income
- Is unable to make rent due to substantial income loss
- Is making timely partial payments
- The eviction would cause the individual to become homeless.
Advocates tell 8News the CDC order has been partially effective at keeping people in their homes but the new state language goes further by requiring landlords to give a 14 day notice to a tenant if they’re considering eviction for non-payment of rent. The notice has to inform them that assistance is available through the Rent and Mortgage Relief Program. People can only be evicted if they refuse to apply or if they are declined by the state program. Landlords can also now apply on behalf of their tenants.
A full list of legislation signed by the governor can be found here.