What Virginia Landlords Need to Know: Eviction Diversion Pilot Program
In 2018, it was reported that five Virginia cities ranked in the top ten cities with the most evictions in the country. For Danville, Hampton, Petersburg, and Richmond, of which Richmond was the only one of the five on the list, this new legislation went into effect on Oct. 1, 2019.
The Eviction Diversion Pilot Program is legislation designed to both reduce evictions in Virginia and collect accurate information on how many tenants are evicted each year. This program will run from July 1st, 2020 through July 1st, 2023.
The purpose of the program is outlined as follows:
- Reducing the number of evictions of low-income persons from their residential dwelling for the failure to pay small amounts of money under the rental agreement, especially in the case of job loss or medical emergency
- Reduce displacement of families from their homes and the resulting adverse consequences to children who are no longer able to remain in the same public school after the eviction
- Encouraging understanding of eviction related processes and facilitating the landlord’s and the tenant’s entering into a reasonable payment plan that will result in the landlord receiving full rental payments and for the tenant to make such payments
- Encouraging tenants to make payments in the manner outlined in the rental agreement
For tenants in an unlawful detainer case, they will be able to participate in the program if they do the following:
- Appear in court on the first docket call of the case and request to have it referred into the program
- Pays to the landlord or into the court at least 25% of the amount due on the unlawful detainer
- Provides sworn testimony that they are employed and has sufficient funds to make payments per the plan outlined by the court
- Has not been late in making payments in the last 12 months at the rate of either more than 2 times in the last 6 months or 3 times in the last 12 months
- Has not exercised the right of redemption in the last six months and has not participated in an eviction diversion program within the last 12 months
If the tenant qualifies, the court will set up a payment plan based on a payment agreement entered into by the landlord and tenant and will contain the following provisions:
- All payments must be made to the landlord, paid by check or money order, and received by the landlord on the 5th day of each month included in the plan
- Remaining payments of the unlawful detainer will be paid on the following schedule:
- 25% due the 5th day of the month following the initial court date
- 25% due the 5th day of the 2nd month following the initial court date
- 25% due the 5th day of the 3rd month following the initial court date
- All rental payments must be made to the landlord within 5 days of the due date established by the rental agreement and each month of the court-ordered payment plan
- If all payments are made the judge can dismiss the unlawful detainer as being satisfied
If payments are not made per the payment plan, the landlord shall submit a written notice to the clerk on a form provided by the Executive Secretary, that the tenant has failed to make payments in accordance with the plan. A copy of such written notice shall be given to the tenant. The court shall enter an order of possession without further hearings or proceedings unless the tenant files an affidavit with the court within 10 days of the notice stating that the current rent has in fact been paid and that the landlord has not properly acknowledged payment of said rent. A copy of the affidavit shall be given to the landlord.
Evictions are costly and time-consuming. Virginia’s steps to improve the rate of evictions in their state can be beneficial for both landlords and tenants.