COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in
This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information. Your local city or county may have additional protections for renters.
This page was last updated on July 7, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.
Its information is taken from these sources:Virg. Supreme Court extension orderVirg. utility shutoff moratoriumVirg. Supreme Court orderVirginia Poverty Law CenterPrinceton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect TrackerVirg. supreme court extension order 06/08
- Are there any special protections for Virginia renters during the emergency? How long do they last?
The Supreme Court of Virginia had suspended eviction court hearings through June 28th, but that moratorium is now expired.
Previously, there was a court eviction suspension in effect between March 16, 2020 and May 17, 2020.
Starting on May 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of Virginia began allowing local courts to hear in-person non-emergency matters, which could include evictions, if they determine it is safe to do so.
Then on June 8, 2020, the Supreme Court of Virginia again suspended all eviction hearings through June 28, at the request of the Governor to allow time to implement a comprehensive rent relief program and help relieve the public health risk associated with evictions. This suspension lasts from June 1, 2020 to June 28, 2020.
Also, a Virginia law gives renters facing eviction a right to a 60 day continuance of their case, if they have lost income due to COVID-19. If they are sued for eviction for nonpayment of rent, renters can bring written proof of that and explain their COVID hardship to the court, in order to request the case be delayed for 60 days.
You may also be eligible for national protections, check here below to see if you are.
- What do the protections mean for Virginia renters?
The protections meant that through June 28, 2020 in Virginia:
- Your landlord could still give you a notice to quit.
- Your landlord could still file an eviction claim in court against you.
- Hearings on eviction were suspended, and the court would not hear any eviction case against you. After June 28, hearings may resume -- but renters with COVID-related loss of income can request a 60-day continuance from the court to delay their case.
- The court would not issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you.
- Law enforcement could still enforce an existing eviction order against you, to remove you from your home.
Even after June 28th, some Virginia renters may be protected from eviction under national laws. Check here to see if you are.
- Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency in Virginia?
Yes, Virginia renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.
Also check with your local city or county government to see if they give renters any additional protections if they are struggling to pay rent during the emergency.
If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:
- Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain why you cannot pay the rent because of COVID-19 impact. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help drafting a letter to your landlord here. You can also use this letter-writing tool here.
- Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
- Keep proof of COVID-19's impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
- Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help.
- Can my landlord evict me during the emergency in Virginia?
Virginia courts would not hear eviction matters or issue new eviction orders against renters through June 28, 2020. After June 28th, eviction cases may proceed and law enforcement may remove renters from their homes.
You may be eligible for a 60-day continuance (delay) in your eviction case, if you have suffered a loss of income due to COVID-19. You must request this continuance from the court. Find legal help to request this 60-day continuance.
Some local Virginia city or county governments may have suspended eviction enforcements. Be sure to check if your local government has any special rules to protect you.
Also, see if you are eligible for national protections against eviction. Read here below to check if you are.
If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.
- Can my utilities be shut off during the emergency in Virginia?
The Virginia State Corporation Commission ordered that all utility companies must continue services for residents during the emergency period. No customer should have home utilities shut off during the emergency, based on an inability to pay.
Renters must still pay their utility bills. If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.
Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.
- Are you eligible for U.S. national protections against eviction?
Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.
Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.
If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)
- Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
- Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
- After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.