In the latest Weekly Wright Report:
Landlords, Beware of These New Laws
If you’re an owner of residential rental property in Virginia, you should be aware of some new laws that took effect on July 1, 2019. The General Assembly has taken note of Virginia’s relatively high eviction rate—which according to the Washington Post is twice the national average—and passed a series of laws that appear to favor tenants.
The first of these laws is the requirement of a written lease. A landlord is now required to offer a written lease to its tenant. If, for whatever reason, it fails to do so, the law automatically recognizes a 12-month statutory lease, with rent due between the first and fifth day of each month. The landlord will be entitled to charge a reasonable fee for late payments and can demand a security deposit of no more than two months’ rent.
The General Assembly has also streamlined the court proceedings in unlawful detainer actions. Whereas a landlord could previously file multiple lawsuits for each month of overdue rent, now the courts will only permit one action at a time, which can be amended to cover all amounts due at the time of trial. If the matter goes to trial, the notice of termination now must be entered into evidence in order for the landlord to successfully obtain a judgment of possession and evict the tenant.
Tenants will now enjoy the benefit of a fourth opportunity to pay late rent in addition to the three previously offered by Virginia statute. Prior to July 1, a tenant could pay past due rent (1) within any grace period established in the written lease, (2) after the notice of nonpayment but before a lawsuit is filed, or (3) after the unlawful action is filed but before the court date (redemption). Now, a tenant is entitled to an extended right of redemption that is based on the sheriff’s scheduled eviction date contained in the writ of eviction. If the tenant pays all rent, late fees, court costs, sheriff’s fees, and attorneys’ fees within two days of the eviction date, the eviction is vacated. A tenant may only rely on the right of redemption – whether extended or not – once in a 12-month period.
In addition to these changes, the Assembly also changed the effective time of a judgment of possession (from 12 months to 6), enacted a pilot eviction diversion program in certain jurisdictions, allowed attorneys’ fees to tenants in poor housing condition cases, and changed the formula for calculation of the appeal bond in unlawful detainer cases. If you need assistance in navigating the legal landscape for your rental properties, please feel free to reach out to Tom Moran or Justin Thatch in Wright, Constable & Skeen’s Richmond office.
Does Your Workplace Dress Code Policy Discriminate Against Men?
Many employment handbook policies outline, with great specificity, permissible clothing and grooming policies according to gender. For example, it may be permissible for women to wear open-toe shoes, skirts, dresses, cropped pants, and earrings. On the other hand, men must wear long pants, have short hair, and no earrings. Some argue this may be discriminatory.
A recent article in the Summer 2019 edition of HR Magazine, a publication from the Society for Human Resource Management, suggests that company dress codes based on gender stereotypes (i.e., generalized preconceptions about attributes or characteristics, or the roles that are or ought to be possessed by, or performed by women and men) can get tricky, particularly when a company’s overall grooming policy imposes more burden on one gender over the other. One HR professional interviewed for the article suggested that even though many dress codes are perfectly legal, they can inadvertently decrease morale, alienate employees and increase turnover by requiring gender conformity.
A recent employment trend is to revise written policies so employees “dress for their day.” If there is an important business meeting, employees should understand that professional business attire is needed. But if the employee is working in the back office where she won’t encounter customers or clients, relaxed attire may be perfectly appropriate.
Policies should be reflective of the company culture, appropriate for the particular industry and be written in such a manner that employees understand how to comply. When violations occur and employees report to work wearing clothing that is distracting or which displays offensive words, symbols or messaging, those employees should be pulled aside for a private conversation and sent home to change.
I recently asked a new colleague to join me for a client meeting the following day. When asked what he should wear, I responded, “Dress like a lawyer.” He wore a navy suit and tie. As boring as that may sound, it created the right professional image. He got it.
Here’s hoping that your employees get it too! But, if they don’t, please contact us to discuss best practices to implement changes.
Want more? Visit the Weekly Wright Report page to browse past issues.