July 1st each year is when most of the new legislation that was passed by the State of Virginia takes effect. This year (as every year), there are a number of changes that will directly impact the real estate business. — Side note: Thank you to the Virginia Association of Realtors, RPAC, and the local associations for all of their hard work in getting these laws proposed and lobbying to get them passed!
Here, I want to highlight a few of the new laws/updates that I found particularly interesting and/or encouraging:
* Brokers who do the right thing won’t be punished (amnesty for honesty). A real estate broker who discovers, either through a self-audit or through a third party retained by the broker, that the firm or a member of the firm has violated a law or regulation will no longer be penalized if the broker satisfies certain requirements:The broker must notify VREB within 30 days of the discovery of any noncompliance, and he must submit a written plan explaining how the issue will be fixed. This may include entry into a voluntary compliance program. Any voluntary compliance or other remediation must be completed not more than 90 days after the date the plan is submitted to the VREB, and must be certified by the broker or a third party in order to create immunity from enforcement. *Note that bill does not protect the broker if the noncompliance was intentional or the result of gross negligence.*
* Landlord and tenant laws changed. A number of changes were made to landlord and tenant laws this year. Some key revisions:For leases governed by the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act:
* Landlords are now allowed to provide information about tenants to a commissioner of the revenue and, in the case of a military tenant, to his commanding officer.
* A landlord may withhold a reasonable portion of the security deposit to satisfy unpaid water and sewer bills.
* Interest rates on security deposits are updated for 2010.
* Utility charges are treated as rent.
* The definitions of “commencement date” and “effective date” of leases are added to the Act.
* Several other things were clarified as to landlord-tenant law generally:
o the bifurcated rent and possession practice in some courts
o what property managers and Realtors® can do in court without a lawyer
o that interest runs on all judgment amounts
* Vested rights are better protected. If a local government issues a permit (other than a building permit) for a property improvement, it can’t change its mind and later declare those improvements to be illegal (although it can find them to be nonconforming).The law also clarifies that a property owner may replace an on-site sewage system for an existing building in the same general location, even if a new sewage system would no longer be permitted in that location. However, if access to a sanitary sewer system is available the property owner must connect to it.
*If a rental property occupied by a tenant is foreclosed upon, the landlord must transfer any security deposit to the new owner of the property, and the new owner, on termination of the lease, must return any security deposit and any interest owed to the tenant in accordance with the provisions of the lease. Interpleader actions limited to disposition of an earnest money deposit may be brought in district court even in cases where the amount of the deposit exceeds the ordinary jurisdictional limits of district court cases.