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Virginia changes guidelines to make it easier for landlords seeking rent and mortgage relief

Virginia changes guidelines to make it easier for landlords seeking rent and mortgage relief

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Virginia landlords can now apply for assistance on behalf of tenants who owe back rent through a state relief program.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced the change to the state’s $50 million rent and mortgage relief program Thursday. Using federal CARES Act money, Northam set up the program at the end of June to quell housing instability stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Expanding this program will provide much needed relief for landlords and property owners facing financial hardship and help ensure that more Virginia families can remain safely in their homes,” Northam said in a news release.

More than 260,000 households are at risk of eviction across the state, according to an analysis by the RVA Eviction Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University.

A federal moratorium offers protection for tenants facing eviction for nonpayment of rent if they sign a declaration affirming they meet certain criteria and give it to their landlord. However, those who do still owe rent.

Tenants or landlords who qualify for the state relief program can apply to have payments dating to April 1 covered. Previously, tenants who fell behind had to initiate the process of seeking the rent relief through local housing agencies that partnered with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Now, landlords can apply for the rent relief directly through Virginia Housing (formerly called the Virginia Housing Development Authority).

It’s a shift the Virginia Apartment Management Association has been lobbying for since July, said Patrick McCloud, the organization’s chief executive officer. For multifamily landlords with many tenants who have delinquent balances, the new guidelines will make more efficient the process of getting as many tenants caught up as possible, he said.

“Before, it relied on the tenant to do everything, and there were no consequences if the tenant didn’t do anything,” McCloud said. “By having the process streamlined, the landlord can initiate the process, follow up with the tenant and take control of the situation.”

Through Sept. 9, about $7.3 million worth of payments were disbursed to about 3,600 recipients through the program. About 1,900 applications or payments are pending, according to Department of Housing and Community Development.

To qualify, a tenant’s household must demonstrate trouble paying rent due to the economic fallout of the pandemic and make 80% or less of the area median income. That threshold is $71,500 in the Richmond region.

In addition, a tenant’s rent must be less than 150% of the fair market rent. That figure varies by locality. In Richmond, it’s about $1,600 for a two bedroom, according to figures available through the state.

Tenants can check their eligibility at www.dhcd.virginia.gov/rmrp. Landlords can seek more information at www.vhda.com/BusinessPartners/PropertyOwnersManagers/Pages/RMRP.aspx.

Applications are due Nov. 15.

mrobinson@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6734

Twitter: @__MarkRobinson

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