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Housing First. The rights of families and youth living in rental housing in Virginia. Christie Marra Staff Attorney in Housing, Family and Child Welfare Law Virginia Poverty Law Center Richmond, Virginia (804) 782-9430, x16 [email protected] Presenter Information.

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Housing first

Housing First

The rights of families and youth living in rental housing in Virginia


Presenter information

  • Christie Marra

    Staff Attorney in Housing, Family and

    Child Welfare Law

    Virginia Poverty Law Center

    Richmond, Virginia

    (804) 782-9430, x16

    [email protected]

Presenter Information


Who is a tenant in virginia

  • A tenant is anyone who pays rent to someone else in exchange for lodging

  • Tenants can live in apartments, duplexes, single family homes, manufactured homes/trailers or individual rooms

  • Tenants can pay their rent by the week, month or at some other interval the landlord and tenant agree upon

  • People living in hotels or motels for more than 90 continuous days are tenants

Who is a tenant in Virginia?


When can the landlord enter the tenant s home

  • The landlord can only enter at reasonable times and with prior notice to the tenant (at least 24 hours)

  • The tenant must allow the landlord to enter, with proper notice, to inspect, make necessary repairs, supply services, show the unit to perspective purchasers, tenants or workers

When can the landlord enter the tenant’s home?


When can a landlord evict a tenant

  • A landlord cannot actually evict a tenant until he has taken the tenant to court and obtained a writ of possession

  • Use of “self-help” by landlords is unlawful in Virginia

  • “Self-Help” occurs when the landlord locks the tenant out, or cuts off a utility, in order to try to evict the tenant without having to go to court

When can a landlord evict a tenant?


When can a landlord get a court order to evict a tenant

  • A landlord can terminate the lease and get an eviction order from the court if:

    • The tenant doesn’t pay her rent when it’s due

    • The tenant commits a material breach of the lease

    • A material breach can be a single serious lease violation or repeated minor violations

    • A criminal act that jeopardized the health and safety of other tenants by a tenant or her guest is grounds for lease termination

When can a landlord get a court order to evict a tenant?


What happens if the tenant pays her rent before the court date

  • Before the lease can be terminated, the landlord must send the tenant a “five day pay or quit” notice

  • If the tenant pays everything she owes on or before the 5th day, the landlord can’t take her to court

  • If she doesn’t pay by day 5 and the landlord takes her to court, she can still avoid eviction if she pays everything she owes (including court costs and attorneys fees) by the court date (“Redemption” is allowed once every 12 months)

What happens if the tenant pays her rent before the court date?


What if a tenant can get the rent a few days after the court date

  • If a tenant obtains a written promise from a nonprofit or local government agency that the agency will pay the rent, late fees and any other amount sued for, the tenant can bring the written promise (called a “redemption tender”) to court and the case will be continued for 10 days.

  • If the tenant does not make the promised payment on or before the new court date, the landlord will get immediate possession of the tenant’s dwelling unit

What if a tenant can get the rent a few days after the court date?


Are all material breaches grounds for eviction of the tenant

  • There are two types of material breaches, remediable and non-remediable. Very few breaches are non-remediable.

  • Tenants who commit remediable breaches are entitled to 21 days to remedy/fix the problem that caused the breach (21/30 notice) if Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act applies

  • Repeat violations are not remediable

Are all material breaches grounds for eviction of the tenant?


What if the tenant is a dv victim and her abuser causes the breach by assaulting the tenant

  • If an act of family abuse is committed against a tenant AND the abuser has been barred by a preliminary or final protective order or by the landlord based on family abuse, the landlord cannot terminate the tenant’s lease because of the abuse

  • Tenant must provide landlord with documentation within 21 days of incident

  • Does not apply if abuser returns to premises after the act of family abuse and tenant fails to notify the landlord within 24 hours

What if the tenant is a DV victim and her abuser causes the breach by assaulting the tenant?


When does a lease terminate

  • Written leases will state when they terminate. Many will automatically renew unless one party gives notice to the other that they want the lease to end.

  • If there’s no written lease, leases run month-to-month, unless the rent is paid weekly.

  • Month to month leases require 30 days’ notice to terminate; week to week require 7 days’ notice.

When does a lease terminate?


Can a domestic violence survivor end her lease early for safety

  • A automatically renew unless one party gives notice to the other that they want the lease to end. tenant with a final protective order for family abuse or conviction of her abuser for family abuse, sexual violence or sexual abuse can terminate her lease with advance written notice (30 DAYS BEFORE NEXT RENT IS DUE)

  • Tenant can terminate her lease when the protective order (or extension) is in effect AND can terminate a lease in effect when the conviction order is entered and one subsequent lease

Can a domestic violence survivor end her lease early for safety?


When does a tenant get her security deposit back

  • A security deposit is collected before move-in and cannot be more than two months’ rent

  • Tenants have a right to do move-in and move-out inspections with the landlord, and the landlord must provide written inspection reports to the tenant

  • The landlord has 45 days after the lease ends and the tenant returns the key to return the security deposit (minus lawful deductions) to the tenant

  • Tenancy must be covered by VRLTA for above

When does a tenant get her security deposit back?


How do advocates know which subsidized housing clients have

  • Key Characteristics of Subsidized Housing Programs: more than two months’ rent

    • Conventional Public Housing: Owned and operated by local Public Housing Authority

    • Project Based Section 8: Owned by private for-profit or non-profit LL; Certain number of units in building reserved for Section 8 tenants

    • Section 8 Housing Choice voucher: Tenants take their Section 8 vouchers to private LL; vouchers pay all or part of rent (Tenant share of rent = 30% of adjusted income)

    • Section 202: Project based for elderly, low-income (less than 50% area median income)

    • Section 811: Project based (old) and subsidies (new) for people with disabilities (<50% AMI)

How do advocates know which subsidized housing clients have?


How does the family unification program fit in

  • The Family Unification Program provides Housing Choice (Section 8) vouchers to:

    1. Families for whom lack of adequate housing is likely to cause:

    • Imminent placement of a child into foster care, or

    • The delay of the return of a child from foster care

      2. Youth between 18 and 21 who left foster care at 16 or older and lack adequate housing.

How does the Family Unification Program fit in ?


What are the limits of fup

  • 1. Family Unification Program vouchers are grant funded through joint applications by the local public housing authority and the local child welfare agency. They are not available everywhere.

  • 2. Youth FUP vouchers are limited to 18 months. There are no time limits for family FUP vouchers.

  • 3. Youth must be provided IL services along with the voucher.

What are the limits of FUP?


What does it mean to lack adequate housing for fup

  • A family or youth lacks adequate housing if they are: through joint applications by the local public housing authority and the local child welfare agency. They are not available everywhere.

    • Living in substandard/dilapidated housing

    • Homeless

    • In imminent danger of losing their home

    • Displaced by domestic violence

    • Living in an overcrowded unit

    • Living in housing not accessible due to a disability of a child or youth

What does it mean to “lack adequate housing” for FUP ?


Which virginia localities have been awarded fup vouchers

Which Virginia localities have been awarded FUP vouchers?


How long can a tenant stay in subsidized housing

  • A tenant’s right to remain in subsidized housing depends on the type of housing she has:

    • Conventional Public Housing: Tenant remains in the housing unless she is evicted for good cause.

    • Section 8 voucher housing: The tenancy is determined by the lease between the tenant and the private landlord; however, the lease cannot be terminated during the lease term except for good cause.

How long can a tenant stay in subsidized housing?


What is good cause to terminate a tenant s subsidized housing

  • “Good cause” generally is a serious lease violation (such as nonpayment of rent) or repeated minor lease violations.

  • Examples of good cause:

    • Criminal activity

    • Disturbance at the dwelling unit that disturbs the other residents’ peaceful enjoyment

    • Damage to the dwelling unit

    • Nonpayment of rent

    • Unauthorized household member

What is “good cause” to terminate a tenant’s subsidized housing?


Are there exceptions to the good cause rule for domestic violence

  • Domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault cannot be treated as a lease violation by the survivor

  • Criminal activity related to domestic violence or sexual assault cannot be used to terminate the survivor’s lease or subsidy

  • PHA or private landlord receiving a Section 8 voucher can bifurcate the lease to remove the abuser

Are there exceptions to the “good cause” rule for domestic violence?


What is required to qualify for the domestic violence exceptions

What is required to qualify for the domestic violence exceptions?


How can a tenant assert her rights if the pha isn t following the law

  • Pre-termination proceeding for Public Housing Tenants: of request

    • Informal meeting

    • Pre-eviction grievance hearing

    • State Court proceeding

  • Pre-termination proceedings for Section 8 voucher tenants:

    • Lease termination – State Court (AP=private LL)

    • Voucher termination – Informal meeting (AP=PHA)

How can a tenant assert her rights if the PHA isn’t following the law?


What can a tenant do if a landlord isn t making needed repairs

  • All residential tenants have the right to file a Tenant’s Assertion in General District Court to ask the court to order the LL to make repairs, reduce the rent for the period of time the repairs aren’t made and/or terminate the lease

  • In order to file a Tenant’s Assertion, the tenant must first send landlord a written request to make the repairs AND must be current on his or her rent

What can a tenant do if a landlord isn’t making needed repairs?


What happens to tenants living in properties that are foreclosed on

  • Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act: Assertion in General District Court to ask the court to order the LL to make repairs, reduce the rent for the period of time the repairs aren’t made and/or terminate the lease

    • Federal Law

    • Due to expire December 31, 2014

    • “Immediate successor in interest” (including bank) takes the foreclosed property subject to the rights of the tenant

    • Successor in interest (new owner) must provide tenant at least 90 days notice to vacate the premises

    • Tenant must be allowed to stay until the end of the lease UNLESS the property is sold to a purchaser who will live their as his primary residence OR there is no lease

What happens to tenants living in properties that are foreclosed on?


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