Here are some important laws that take effect July 1, 2023 that you should know about.
Your Underinsured Motorist Auto Insurance Coverage Just Got Better: You now have more insurance available if you are injured in a car accident! For auto insurance policies issued or renewed on July 1st or later, your available underinsured motorist coverage no longer gets a credit for the amount of available liability coverage for the other driver. That means you can now get the full protection of both insurance policies if you’ve been injured in an accident that is someone else’s fault. This is valuable coverage for you, your family living in your house, and others riding in your car. While any named insured on the policy can elect to reduce the underinsured motorist coverage up to the amount of the liability coverage the other driver has – don’t do it! The coverage is very inexpensive compared to the extra protection it will give you. Also, if your insurance policy doesn’t expire for a while, consider asking your insurance company to renew your policy now, so you can take advantage of this change in insurance law right away.
New Insurance Requirements for Assisted Living Facilities: The new law mandates that the Board of Social Services create regulations that establish a minimum amount of liability insurance each assisted living facility must maintain. Upon request, the facility must provide notice of this insurance to any resident or prospective resident. Currently, assisted living facilities are required to disclose whether they have liability insurance, but they can only claim to have it if they meet the minimum coverage determined by the Board. The law also includes that assisted living facilities cannot claim immunity from civil liability as charitable institutions for damages up to the greater of either the facility’s liability insurance coverage limits or the minimum amount of coverage required by regulation. In summary, the bill aims to ensure that assisted living facilities have adequate liability insurance coverage and removes immunity from civil liability based on charitable institution status for certain damages.
Important New Protection for Victims of Sexual Harassment: Known as “The Silenced No More Act,” this new law addresses sexual harassment and agreements that prevent victims from speaking out. The new law states that employers cannot force employees or job applicants to sign or renew agreements that keep sexual harassment claims hidden. This includes provisions that prevent individuals from speaking negatively about the harassment. Such provisions are considered against public policy and are not valid or enforceable. Essentially, the law aims to promote transparency and prevent the silencing of victims in cases of sexual harassment.
A New Right of Redress for Victims of Sexual Abuse: A new law gives a victim of sexual abuse committed by a person in a position of authority a better way to seek justice civily. The law allows individuals who are 18 years of age or older and have been injured as a result of such sexual abuse by a person of authority to pursue a civil lawsuit up to 15 years after the time the abuse occurs.
Fair Pay for Workers with Disabilities: Currently, some disabled individuals can be paid less than the minimum wage under federal law. This law states that those individuals will continue to be exempt from Virginia’s minimum wage law only if they were already being paid less than the minimum wage before July 1, 2023, by employers authorized to do so. This exemption will be in effect until July 1, 2030, when it will be completely removed. Additionally, the law requires two departments to prioritize supporting disabled individuals who want to transition from lower-paying jobs to regular, integrated employment. These departments must also provide a report to the Governor and the General Assembly by May 1, 2024, which includes information about the number of disabled individuals employed at lower wages and their progress in moving to better-paying jobs.
New Protections for Renters #1: This change to the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act allows a tenant to terminate their lease if they discover a dangerous condition in the premises, such as a fire hazard or a threat to health and safety (e.g., rodent infestation, lack of heat, water, electricity, or sewage facilities) at the start of their tenancy. The right to terminate the lease only applies though in the first week of lease. In such cases, the tenant is entitled to a full refund of all deposits and rent paid to the landlord. The landlord must provide the refund within fifteen business days after the tenant’s termination notice or after the tenant vacates the unit, whichever is later, unless the landlord provides written notice of refusal within fifteen business days. The bill also allows tenants who haven’t moved in or have already left to take legal action to challenge the landlord’s refusal to refund their payments.
New Protections for Renters #2: Another change to the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act pertains to the terms and conditions of rental agreements, specifically regarding rent increases. The change mandates that if a landlord owns more than four rental units or has a stake of more than 10 percent in more than four rental units, they must provide written notice to the tenant regarding any rent increase for the upcoming rental agreement term. This requirement applies to rental agreements that include an option to renew or an automatic renewal provision. The landlord must notify the tenant of the rent increase at least 60 days before the current rental agreement term ends. In other words, the landlord must inform the tenant well in advance if they plan to raise the rent for the next rental period, giving the tenant sufficient notice to consider the increase and make any necessary decisions.