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NO. 115. AN ACT RELATING TO NONPAYMENT OF RENT AND TERMINATION OF RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES.

(H.343)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1. 9 V.S.A. § 4462(c) is amended to read:

(c) If any property, except trash, garbage or refuse, is unclaimed by a tenant *[who has vacated a dwelling unit after a tenancy has terminated or]* who has abandoned a dwelling unit, the landlord shall give written notice to the tenant mailed to the tenant’s last known address *[of the tenant of the landlord's intent]* that the landlord intends to dispose of the property after 60 days if the tenant has not claimed the property and paid any reasonable storage and other fees incurred by the landlord. The landlord shall place the property in a safe, dry, secured location, but may dispose of any trash, garbage or refuse left by the tenant. *[The tenant shall have 45 days in which to claim the property if the property has a value of less than $1,000.00 and six months in which to claim the property if the property has a value of $1,000.00 or more.]* The tenant may claim the property by providing the landlord with the following within 60 days after the date of the notice:

(1) A reasonable written description of the property; and

(2) Payment of the fair and reasonable cost of storage and any related reasonable expenses incurred by the landlord.

If the tenant does not claim the property within the *[applicable]* required time, the property shall become the property of the landlord. If the tenant claims the property within the required time, *[the tenant shall pay the landlord the fair and reasonable cost of storage, including related expenses of]* the landlord shall immediately make the property available to the tenant at a reasonable place and the tenant shall take possession of the property at that time and place.

Sec. 2. 9 V.S.A. § 4467 is amended to read:

§ 4467. TERMINATION OF TENANCY; NOTICE

(a) Termination for nonpayment of rent. The landlord may terminate a tenancy for nonpayment of rent *[on or after the first day of the next succeeding rental period. The landlord shall give notice by certified mail or by having the notice served by any law enforcement officer at least 14 days prior to the termination date specified in the notice]* by providing actual notice to the tenant of the date on which the tenancy will terminate which shall be at least 14 days after the date of the actual notice. The rental agreement shall not terminate if the tenant pays or tenders all arrearages prior to the termination date. A tenant may not defeat a notice to terminate by payment of arrearages more than three times in *[twelve]* 12 months. Acceptance of partial payment of rent shall not constitute a waiver of the landlord's remedies for nonpayment of rent.

* * *

(c) Termination for no cause. In the absence of a written rental agreement, the landlord may terminate a tenancy for no cause as follows:

(1) if rent is payable on a monthly basis, by providing actual *[written]* notice *[given]* to the tenant*[;]* of the date on which the tenancy will terminate which shall be:

(A) For tenants who have resided continuously in the same premises for two years or less, at least 60 days *[prior to the termination date specified in the notice]* after the date of the actual notice.

(B) For tenants who have resided continuously in the same premises for more than two years, at least 90 days after the date of the actual notice.

(2) if rent is payable on a weekly basis, by providing actual *[written]* notice *[given]* to the tenant of the date on which the tenancy will terminate which shall be at least 21 days *[prior to the termination date specified in the notice]* after the date of the actual notice.

(d) Termination of rental agreement when property is sold. In the absence of a written rental agreement a landlord who has contracted to sell the building may terminate a tenancy by providing actual notice *[given]* to the tenant of the date on which the tenancy will terminate which shall be at least 30 days *[prior to the termination date specified in the notice]* after the date of the actual notice.

* * *

(h) A rental arrangement whereby a person rents to another individual one or more rooms in his or her personal residence that includes the shared use of any of the common living spaces, such as the living room, kitchen or bathroom, may be terminated by either party by providing actual notice to the other of the date the rental agreement shall terminate, which shall be at least 15 days after the date of actual notice if the rent is payable monthly and at least seven days after the date of actual notice if the rent is payable weekly.

Sec. 2a. 9 V.S.A. § 4467(e) is amended to read:

(e) Termination by landlord under terms of a written rental agreement. If the landlord terminates a tenancy in accordance with the terms of a written rental agreement, the notice to terminate shall be at least 30 days, if rent is payable on a monthly basis *[or]* and the tenancy has continued for two years or less. The notice to terminate for no cause shall be at least 60 days if the rent is paid on a monthly basis and the tenancy has continued for more than two years. The notice to terminate shall be at least seven days, if rent is payable on a weekly basis; however, a notice to terminate for nonpayment of rent shall be as provided in subsection (a) of this section.

Sec. 3. 12 V.S.A. § 4853a(b) and (d) are amended to read:

(b) *[If the complaint and motion are filed at the same time, a hearing on the motion shall be scheduled to be held 10 days after the date the answer is due. If the motion is filed after the complaint is filed, a hearing on the motion shall be scheduled to be held 10 days after the date the memorandum in opposition is due]* A hearing on the motion shall be held any time after 10 days notice to the parties.

(d) If the court finds the tenant is obligated to pay rent and has failed to do so, the court shall order full or partial payment into court of rent as it accrues while the proceeding is pending and prorated rent for the month in which the hearing is held.

Sec. 4. 12 V.S.A. § 4854 is amended to read:

§ 4854. JUDGMENT FOR PLAINTIFF; WRIT OF POSSESSION

If the court finds that the plaintiff is entitled to possession of the premises the plaintiff shall have judgment for *[the]* possession *[thereof]* and *[for]* rents *[not exceeding $5,000.00 with]* due, damages and costs, and when a written rental agreement so provides, the court may award reasonable attorney fees. A writ of possession shall issue *[accordingly; or if the court has entered judgment for the plaintiff on default or on a motion for summary judgment, the writ of possession shall be issued]* ten days after the date judgment is entered, unless the court for good cause orders a stay. The writ shall direct the sheriff of the county in which the property or a portion thereof is located to serve the writ upon the defendant and, no sooner than five days after the writ is served, to put the plaintiff into possession.

Sec. 5. 9 V.S.A. § 4456a is added to read:

§ 4456a. RESIDENTIAL RENTAL APPLICATION FEES; PROHIBITED

A landlord or a landlord’s agent shall not charge an application fee to any individual in order to apply to enter into a rental agreement for a residential dwelling unit. This section shall not be construed to prohibit a person from charging a fee to a person in order to apply to rent commercial or nonresidential property.

Sec. 6. 9 V.S.A. § 4458 is amended to read:

§ 4458. HABITABILITY; TENANT REMEDIES

(a) If the landlord fails to comply with the landlord's obligations for habitability*[, the tenant shall give the landlord actual notice of the noncompliance. If]* and, after receiving actual notice of the noncompliance from the tenant, a governmental entity or a qualified independent inspector, the landlord fails to make repairs within a reasonable time and the noncompliance materially affects health and safety, the tenant may:

* * *

Sec. 7. 12 V.S.A. § 4528 is amended to read:

§ 4528. DECREE FORECLOSING EQUITY OF REDEMPTION; WRIT OF POSSESSION

If a decree is made foreclosing the right of redemption, the time of redemption shall be six months from the date of the decree unless a shorter time *[be]* is ordered. If the premises are not redeemed agreeably to the decree, the clerk of the court may issue a writ of possession. Such writ shall have the same force and effect and be executed in the same manner as similar writs issued after judgment by a court of law in ejectment proceedings. Where the premises are occupied by a residential tenant, the writ shall be served on the tenant, and no sooner than 30 days after the writ is served the plaintiff shall be placed in possession of the property without further proceedings.

Sec. 8. 12 V.S.A. § 4523 is amended to read:

§ 4523. VENUE; JOINDER OF PARTIES; RECORDING

* * *

(c) If the mortgaged property is subject to a residential rental agreement, as defined in 9 V.S.A. § 4451:

(1) The plaintiff shall join as a party defendant any person occupying the mortgaged property pursuant to a residential rental agreement as of the date the copy of the complaint is recorded in the land records. Service of the complaint on the tenant shall be sufficient if mailed to the tenant by first class mail at the address specified in the rental agreement, if the agreement is recorded, or to the “occupant” at the address of the leased premises if the agreement is not recorded.

(2) The summons and complaint served on any person occupying the premises pursuant to a residential rental agreement shall contain the following notice, written in at least 14 point type: THE PROPERTY IN WHICH YOU LIVE IS BEING FORECLOSED UPON. YOU ARE NAMED AS A DEFENDANT IN THE FORECLOSURE BECAUSE YOUR RIGHT TO REMAIN ON THE PREMISES MAY END WHEN THE FORECLOSURE IS COMPLETED. YOU MUST NOTIFY THE COURT OF YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS IN ORDER TO BE KEPT INFORMED OF THE STATUS OF THE FORECLOSURE.

(3) Upon receipt of the complaint, the owner of the mortgaged property shall notify each tenant who enters into a residential rental agreement, that the premises are the subject of a pending foreclosure action and that, in the event the owner is unable to redeem the premises, the tenant may be required to vacate the premises upon 30 days notice. The failure of the owner to provide notice under this subsection shall not affect or invalidate the foreclosure action.

(d) All proceedings shall be before the presiding judge alone, and trial shall be without jury.

Sec. 9. 12 V.S.A. § 4852 is amended to read:

§ 4852. MODE OF PROCESS; DECLARATION; TRIAL BY JURY

The process may issue as a summons or writ of attachment, requiring the defendant to appear and answer to the complaint of the plaintiff which shall state that the defendant is in the possession of the lands or tenements in question (describing them), which *[he]* the tenant holds unlawfully and against the right of the plaintiff. A copy of the rental agreement, if any, and any notice to terminate the defendant’s tenancy shall be attached to the complaint. Either party shall have the right to a trial by jury.

Sec. 10. STATE RENTAL HOUSING REGISTRY; DESIGN

The department of labor and industry and the department of housing and community affairs shall cooperatively design a process for creating a registry of all the rental housing units in Vermont from which to create a database that will be updated regularly to provide valid contemporary information relating to each rental housing unit in the state. The design shall include an estimate of human and financial resources needed to assure the success and thoroughness of the registry. The rental housing registry design proposal shall be presented to the general assembly in a report on or before January 1, 2001. At a minimum, the report shall include:

(1) An estimate of the cost of creating and maintaining the registry and database.

(2) A detailed description of the data collection process, including specific data to be collected and procedures for updating and assuring the contemporary accuracy of the information, including identification of any existing rental housing inventories or databases that may be used to enhance the completion and accuracy of the registry.

(3) A fee structure that will adequately finance the creation and ongoing administration of the registry, including methods for payment and collection of fees.

(4) An estimate of the number and qualifications of personnel needed to develop and, later, maintain and update the registry and the fee collection system.

(5) A process for authorizing those municipalities that already have registries and effective housing code enforcement programs to continue, and methods to assure that local registries and enforcement efforts interface with the state housing code enforcement activities.

(6) A description of the specific information about each rental housing unit that will be included in the registry, such as the size, location, number of floors, type of heating system, extent of housing code compliance, accessibility features, and any other information deemed useful or relevant to future housing code compliance efforts that should be included in the registry.

(7) A process that prioritizes rental housing inspections and provides systematic inspections, including the number of inspectors necessary to fulfill this goal.

(8) A process and time frame for transferring habitability code enforcement from town health officers to the department of labor and industry.

(9) A sub-registry of accessible rental housing units.

Sec. 11. Sec. 6 of Act No. 36 of the Acts of 1999 is amended to read:

Sec. 6. EFFECTIVE DATE*[; SUNSET]*

This act shall take effect September 1, 1999 *[and shall sunset on February 15, 2003]*.

Approved: May 18, 2000