Price's Remarks on Gov's Vetoes for House Democratic Caucus Press Conference
Today, I stood with my Democratic colleagues in the House of Delegates to speak out against the Governor's vetoes of bills that passed the House and the Senate with bi-partisan support. I joined our Leader, Del. Filler-Corn, Del. Clark, and Del. Hope who all had bills vetoed or soft-vetoed like me. Here are my remarks:
I introduced HB 802 in direct response to unconscionable living conditions that some of the constituents of the 95th District were being forced to live in because of slumlords. And as I began to talk with other legislators, it was clear this was happening all around the Commonwealth. These residents were paying their rent but were not able to get their concerns met or their work orders fulfilled.
Right now, localities typically only have 2 options to try to help keep their residents in rental properties safe: fines are levied by the court or the locality can condemn a property. What does that look like?
Imagine you have a leak you need fixed because water is coming through your ceiling and ruining your furniture and carpet and you have to deal constantly with mildew and mold. And your child has asthma and is getting sicker because of the living conditions. Then the only 2 options available are for your landlord to be fined (which might be cheaper than the cost of the repairs and a disincentive to actually fix things) or the property gets condemned and now you have no where else to go. This is a VERY real and common scenario in some of the apartment complexes I’ve visited. Neither of these scenarios help the renter.
So what House Bill 802 would do is allow for the locality to sue the slumlord FOR THE ACTUAL FIXES to the issues involving health and safety standards. So we’re talking leaks, mildew, mold, insect infestations, rodent infestations, etc.
This bill would be a game changer and that’s why we had about 40 organizations who supported it and tenants lined up to speak virtually at the hearing, so many that testimony had to be cut short.
And this commonsense measure passed the General Assembly with bipartisan support. But once it got to the Governor’s desk, he responded to the needs of residents all across the Commonwealth in these horrible situations with a slap in the face with this veto.
His response was that this bill is not needed and that these powers were already possible. He then went on to imply that the residents we are trying to help were somehow at fault for causing their situation. Classy.
This is not based in fact or lived experience from the renter, slumlord, or locality perspective. HB 802 was a collaborative effort with attorneys and advocates on behalf of both tenants and landlords. There was an overwhelming consensus that slumlords should have no place in Virginia. But with this veto, the Governor is creating a safe space for slumlords and keeping the inadequate choice between fines and condemning properties as the only tools for localities - again, neither of which actually help the tenant.
Our intent was to provide a way to better protect Virginians who rent their homes across the entire Commonwealth, against slumlords who were not holding up their end of the bargain, even while getting paid their rent. And that’s what the Governor vetoed.