Governor Youngkin’s vetoes keep low-income tenants at the mercy of slumlords

Monday, May 20th, 2024

Thousands of residential tenants across the Commonwealth live in dangerously unhealthy conditions, battling mold, pest infestations, broken plumbing, and failing heating and cooling systems. When these tenants turn to their local office of housing or court system for help, they are all too often turned away by judges and other officials who want to help but whose hands are tied by archaic laws elevating free market economics above the health and safety of Virginia’s renters.

Sadly, when provided opportunities to update these laws and give residential tenants and local governments stronger tools to weed out slumlords, Governor Youngkin declined. His vetoes of three bills that would have strengthened protections for renters illustrate the Governor’s blind faith in a free market that fails to protect hardworking tenants while allowing predatory slumlords to prosper.

Bills introduced by Delegate Kathy Tran and Senator Adam Ebbin (HB993 and SB422) would have made it unlawful for landlords to charge tenants an extra fee every time they request a repair to something that has broken in their living space. Because of the Governor’s veto of this legislation, landlords can continue to collect these maintenance fees—sometimes as high as one-hundred dollars per maintenance request – despite the current law’s requirement that landlords keep their rental units safe and habitable. “With a few strokes of the veto pen, Governor Youngkin has signaled approval for landlords to charge tenants an extra fee whenever the tenant asks them to honor their responsibility to fix essential systems and other necessities when they break,” said Christie Marra, Director of VPLC’s Center for Housing.

Even more damaging to the health and safety of residential tenants are the Governor’s vetoes of a bill carried by Delegate Price and Senator Aird and another introduced by Delegate Cousins. Delegate Cousins’ HB1251 would have removed the requirement that a residential tenant be current on rent to file a court case against a landlord who refuses to make repairs to restore the unit’s safety and habitability, leaving low-income tenants struggling to pay for rent and other necessities particularly vulnerable to hazardous conditions in their homes. He also vetoed, for a second time, Delegate Price and Senator Aird’s bill authorizing local governments to sue slumlords directly for remedies like injunctions and rent abatement (HB597 and SB479), leaving them with code enforcement fines that have been inadequate to deter slumlords.

“This is how property owners at places like Glenwood Farms in Henrico County, and Seaview Apartments in Newport News are able to collect tens of thousands of dollars in rent while allowing dangerous and inhumane conditions,” said Marra. “Despite the setbacks the Governor’s vetoes cause, VPLC will work for change next year. We stand by our legal aid colleagues throughout the state to fight for justice in the courts.”

In the meantime, VPLC will continue to empower tenants with the organization’s new Eviction Defense Center and educational forums throughout the state.

Media Contact: Connie Stevens,, 540.354.8597


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