*This blog was created in accordance with the  “New Laws 2020” episode of the Caveat REALTOR® podcast, published 06/16/20

While Virginia REALTORS® has put out a number of resources on this year’s new laws, that magical day of July 1—when most go into effect—is just around the corner, so we thought this would be a good time to provide you with a quick refresher. And unless otherwise noted, all of these laws go into effect on July 1, 2020.

We are not going to cover ALL of the new laws that impact you, so if you haven’t already, make sure to head over to our website to check out the resources we have that go into more detail.

  • The first important new law deals with distracted driving. This new law makes it illegal to hold a handheld personal communications device—like a cell phone—while driving a moving motor vehicle. This law doesn’t become effective until January 1, 2021, but if you’re not already using blue tooth or hands-free technology, now is a good time to start figuring that out.
  • Another big change is that the Virginia Department of Taxation has now been given the authority to investigate worker misclassification. These new laws set the default as all individuals who work for money are employees, unless you can classify them as an independent contractor under IRS guidelines. We have another podcast episode that goes into more details on this that came out a few weeks ago.
  • The Virginia Telephone Privacy Protection Act was also updated. You’ll remember that there were some changes to this last year, but this year, protections are added to cell phone numbers with a Virginia area code, or cell phone numbers registered to a resident of Virginia regardless of area code. Additionally, protections have been added regarding sending text messages to these cell phones.
  • The Property Owner’s Association and Condo Association Acts were amended to allow the parties to agree, in writing, to extend the 3-day right of recission up to an additional 4 days. This means that the parties can agree that the buyer has anywhere between 3 and 7 days to terminate the contract after receiving the packet. Note that the law does not allow the right to terminate to be waived or the three days to be reduced.
  • The Virginia Fair Housing Act was amended to add 4 new protected categories: Sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a veteran, and source of funds. Source of funds is any governmental or nongovernmental program that provides funds to or on behalf of a buyer or tenant.

There are two exceptions to the protections for source of funds, both of which apply to a rental. The first is if the landlord has less than 5 properties subject to a lease in Virginia. In this case, the landlord may reject an application that contains financial assistance. The other is if the source of the funds takes more than 15 days to approve the application for that particular property.

  • There is a new law that limits who can perform a septic inspection in a real estate transaction to a licensed onsite sewage system operator, onsite sewage system installer, or onsite soil evaluator.
  • Another law, that was effective April 22, 2020, creates similar protections as a law from last year that protected people impacted by the federal government shutdown. Tenants, landlords of tenants, and homeowners who are furloughed or impacted by a federal government shut down can provide written proof of their furlough and receive a 60-day continuance of an unlawful detainer or 30-day stay of a foreclosure. The 2019 law had an end date, so this law does the same thing, but is now permanently on the books. It also provides similar protections for individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic who are not protected by other laws such as the Federal CARES Act.
  • The final law we want to talk about deals with the grantor’s tax and regional transportation improvement fee. Both of these are currently required to be paid by the grantor/seller. After July 1, 2020, the parties can negotiate and agree that the buyer will pay some or all of these fees.

As previously mentioned, this is just a high-level summary of some of the bills that will impact REALTORS® and their clients. For more details on these and other laws, head to our website and check out the section for the 2020 new laws.