Law Matters

Covid and Rental Properties:  What Landlords and Tenants Need to Know 
By Brenda Waugh

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit last spring, landlords and tenants have struggled to address challenges created by economic losses. Governmental responses include restrictions on evictions to curtail homelessness.

A CDC moratorium on eviction, included in the first two Covid-19 relief bills and extended by executive order, restricts evicting tenants who don’t pay their rent. The tenant must provide written notice to the landlord that:

  • The tenant has experienced a loss in income or reduction in work hours and certifies that their income is less than $99,000.00 per year ($198,000.00 for couples filing jointly);
  • The tenant has sought governmental rental assistance;
  • They may be able to pay a partial payment;
  • If evicted, the tenant would be homeless.

The moratorium doesn’t apply to evictions for any reason other than unpaid rents. The unpaid rent continues to be due, and the landlord may begin the eviction process to regain possession when the moratorium expires. The moratorium is scheduled to expire on March 31, 2021 and has not been included in the 1.9 trillion dollar rescue bill passed by the House of Representatives but may be extended by executive order. A recent federal court judge declared the moratorium unconstitutional in late February. The ruling’s direct impact is limited to the Eastern District of Texas and does not impact evictions in Virginia.

If the moratorium expires, provisions enacted by cities and states may restrict evictions. In Virginia, tenants have a right to a sixty-day continuance in an eviction proceeding so long as they attend the first hearing and demonstrate financial hardship.

Many Virginia landlords must also provide written notice before seeking to evict a tenant. The notice includes the amount due, opportunities for a payment plan, and information about the state relief program before seeking to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent. In those cases, the landlord may complete the application for those programs.

The Covid Relief bills that have passed Congress and the bill that is now pending assists many landlords suffering a loss of rental payments due to the pandemic. They provide landlords with federally backed single-family (1–4 unit) mortgages with a forbearance. In Virginia, most landlords may enjoy many of the same foreclosure protections as other consumers.

When the renter no longer qualifies for the moratorium, a landlord can regain possession only through an eviction procedure filed in General District Court. While litigation may give some relief, many real estate investment experts recommend that landlords consider mediation an alternative to litigation.

They cite concerns that litigation is costly, can be time consuming, and creates an adversarial relationship that often results in a tenant less likely to pay. Landlords may incur attorney fees when cases go to trial, and long delays can result in court processes. Mediation is a voluntary process involving a neutral facilitator who works with the parties to create a legally binding resolution. It does not carry the risks of trial. In one study, the average cost for evictions, including time expended in document preparation and being in court, ranged from $3,500 to $10,000.

The average cost for mediation, on the other hand, was $89. The Virginia Supreme Court funds a mediation program in the General District Court for all cases, including landlord-tenant cases. Some landlords engage a private mediator before filing when a tenant falls behind in rents to reach a written, enforceable agreement to address arrears and possession of the property.

While a landlord can remove a tenant involuntarily only with a court order, the mediation agreements often prevent that action. Current federal or state restrictions do not preclude pre-suit mediation on eviction.

For more information, the Virginia Lawyer Referral Service may be contacted
at 800-522-7977.

The document for a tenant to apply for the moratorium is located online at https://legalfaq.org/covid/va#national and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/declaration-form.pdf.

Resources for landlords can be found at http://www.vacourts.gov/news/items/covid/2020_0605_unlawful_
detainers_and_writs_of_eviction.pdf.

Supreme Court certified mediators are listed online at http://www.courts.state.va.us/courtadmin/aoc/djs/programs/drs/mediation/
mediators.html.

Brenda Waugh is a lawyer/mediator with Waugh Law & Mediation, serving clients in the Blue Ridge region of Virginia and Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. She has conducted workshops throughout the U.S. and in Canada, and has published articles in periodicals and legal journals in the area of alternative dispute resolution.

2021 American Conservation Film Festival Presents FREE Virtual Film Festival

ACFF features 48 films and complimentary programming

The American Conservation Film Festival is adapting to the times and sees opportunities that it never realized before in presenting its curated film 
line-up entirely online. “While this pandemic has presented incredible challenges to so many people and organizations, including small non-profits like ours, it has also pushed us to come up with innovative ways to share the compelling stories about our environment that are more important than ever,” says Jennifer Lee, ACFF’s executive director.

The 18th annual festival will be presented online starting March 24 and running through March 28.  All of the selected 48 films, including 5 award winners, will be available to watch during all five days of the festival. ACFF has always strived to make films and programs accessible to as many people as possible. The online virtual format increases that potential, and ACFF is going two steps further to create access for all — all films and programs will be free and all films will have closed captions.

“Working for the National Park Service has really inspired me to become a big advocate for captioning,” says ACFF board member and conservation filmmaker Sarah Gulick. “As a federal agency, we are legally required to caption all of our films, but it is also just the right thing to do. I also have a good friend and neighbor who is deaf. While COVID may keep us from watching together in person, I want to be able to share these films with everyone I know. The conservation challenges of today require all hands on deck, and the amazing stories of our natural world should be available to everyone.” 

The theme for this year’s festival— Voices for a New World — speaks to the diversity of film subjects and filmmakers, the new world of virtual programming, and the importance of listening to each other and the environment to effect positive change.  Film topics (searchable on the festival platform) include the standard ones like wildlife preservation, climate change, and food and agriculture while putting new and greater emphasis on environmental justice, youth perspectives, and diversity.

“Everyone wants clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, pristine lands and rivers and oceans to enjoy. I think that’s where we can all literally find common ground that serves everyone, not just a privileged few,” says Lee. Five panel discussions on the themes of environmental justice, greener farming, women leadership in conservation, the role of indigenous leaders in preserving wild lands, and youthful perspectives will also be offered, as well as interviews with filmmakers and film subjects and nightly Zoom meet-ups for audience interaction.

Registration for the festival is now open at: https://2021festival.eventive.org/welcome. Film descriptions and trailers allow people to get a sneak preview of festival offerings and start planning their viewing experience over the five days of the festival.  

For regular updates, follow conservationfilmfest.org and social media channels.

A Proud Moment

By Carol L Coffelt

There are many events in one’s life that are memorable. But one Clarke County family is busting at the seams with pride because they have a rare memorable moment that few families have, when one of your children is awarded a top honor from the United States Air Force.

That family is ours. Leaders from the Virginia Air National Guard recognized the organization’s top performers of the year during an annual awards ceremony held on February 20, 2021 held at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. Virginia National Guard Air Component Commander Brig. Gen. Toni M. Lord hosted the event and presented group, state and national-level awards to Airmen alongside Col. Christopher G. Batterton, 192nd Wing Commander, and Command Chief Master Sgt. Richard A. Roberts, 192nd Wing command chief.

Faith Olivia Coffelt, my step daughter and a fourth-generation resident of Clarke County, was one of those awarded Outstanding Airman of the Year for the 192nd Medical Group of the Virginia Air National Guard. General Lord also recognized the 192nd and presented the group with the first Adjutant General’s Air Readiness Trophy for overall readiness in effective manning, training and recruiting, and retention efforts. The 192nd MDG was also recognized for its role and impact on the year’s federal and state missions where they organized and deployed to provide support during the coronavirus epidemic. This mission is ongoing today.

Faith turned just 20 years old in August, 2020. Her accomplishments since she turned 16-years-old rival most adults. Not only was she the youngest female EMT at Boyce Volunteer Fire Company, she also went on to obtain her Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 certifications. She then joined the Virginia Air National Guard after High School. Even though she would not be a full-time active duty Airman, she still had to undergo basic military training and over a year of tech schools to become an Air Force Medic. At 20, she has already served over eight months on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle, testing and vaccinating communities all around the Commonwealth.

As her father has been a member at Boyce Volunteer Fire Company since 1984, you can guess that Faith grew up around ambulances and firetrucks. And even though she has completed fire training and has gone into burning buildings, her first love is still helping people as a medic. Her full time job, when not activated by the Virginia Air National Guard, is an ER Tech at Valley Medical Hospital in Winchester. Her response to finding out about the accolade was, “Really? I don’t know why.” Because to her, doing an excellent job, leading and caring for people no matter who they are is just who she is. These inherent traits are skills these jobs require but cannot be taught.

Congratulations to Faith Olivia Coffelt for this amazing honor, and thank you for your service.

Eighth Grade Assignment Sparked Graduate to Top Secret Purpose

By René White, Lt. Col. (Retired) U.S. Air Force

Graduate Kassidy Zugelder attributes an elementary-school assignment to her life-changing decision to join the U.S. Air Force. 

“When I was in Mrs. Elizabeth Miller’s eighth grade, I had to do an essay about someone who was 35 years or older,” Kassidy said. “I wrote about my O-pa, my father’s dad Milton Zugelder, who lives in Strasburg, Va.” 

“O-pa retired from the Air Force after 21 years. I interviewed him and listened to his stories,” she said. “Then, presenting to the class sparked something inside of me.” 

Military stories from both her grandfathers influenced Kassidy’s future. Her mother’s father, Richard Vance Kave of Clarke County and graduate of 1966, also joined the Air Force. 

“I want to go places and do important things, and have some sort of bigger purpose to serve in my life,” Kassidy said. “In high school, I bounced around from basketball and DECA (Distinguished Education Clubs of America) to the Republican’s Club to robotics and anything I could explore to find my niche.” “Exploring opened me up to new people and new experiences,” she said. “I have always loved math and science; anything with numbers, I’m all over it.” 

Kassidy attended honors classes, completed 30 college credits, and is graduating with an advanced diploma with goal to become a Pharmacist.

“I didn’t want my family or me to go into debt paying for college,” she said. So, at age 17 Kassidy talked with her school counselors and parents about joining the Air Force. “I’m going to be a 1N431 Fusion Analyst in the Air Force,” Kassidy said. “I’ll read top secret documents to detect security threats for the United States and annotate documents to send to higher-ups.”

“This is my best course of action,” she said. Not only because she gets a job now and money for college she added, “I want to find who I am as a person and get a chance to go out and help people.”

After meeting recruiter Air Force TSgt Joshua Walters in Winchester Va., her mom Abby Zugelder said, “If this is what you want to do, who am I to stop you from your dreams to be as successful as you can be?”

Kassidy’s high score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery put her in the 99th percentile for science, 98th percentile for mathematics, and high 90’s for electronics. At age 17 she took early commitment with the Air Force Delayed Entry Program (DEP), which means she was locked in and waiting for an assignment. 

After two-weeks of COVID-19 quarantine, Kassidy departs on July 7 for Basic Military Training (BMT) at Lackland AFB Texas, then five months of technical training school at Goodfellow AFB, Texas. “I’m so excited,” she said. “When I think about going, packing up soon, or anything that deals with serving in the military I get this feeling of butterflies,” she added. “It’s overwhelming sureness! I have never felt so sure of anything in my whole life.” 

Dana Ramey: Compassion and a Strong Constitution

By Claire Stuart

Dana Ramey has more than just a dream of what it will be like to work at her chosen profession. While still attending school classes, the Clarke County High School 2020 graduate worked full time at Blue Ridge Veterinary Associates in Purcellville until she was laid off because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Blue Ridge Veterinary Associates is a large veterinary practice that also operates an emergency veterinary hospital that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They also offer boarding, grooming and doggie day care. They serve animals large and small, exotic to ordinary, from reptiles and birds to dogs, cats, goats and llamas. Ramey worked as a Kennel Technician in charge of feeding and walking the animals, in addition to helping the doctors and other technicians as needed.

Ramey will be taking Penn Foster College’s online program to become a licensed veterinary technician. It is a two-year program, but students may study at their own pace. 

Although many of the requirements for the course can be accomplished online, the program necessitates laboratories and hands-on learning exercises that must be verified by a veterinarian. If the students are actively working for a veterinary practice, they can complete their lab lessons at work where they can be checked by their employer.

It takes more than just a kind heart and a love for animals to become a veterinary technician. Unlike medical professionals that deal only with humans, veterinary professionals must be familiar with the anatomy, physiology, behavior and ailments of a host of animals, large and small. Plus, the vets and techs can’t expect to see any gratitude from their patients, who look forward to their visits with dread and fear, resulting in a constant struggle to avoid scratches and bites!

Beyond the routine vaccinations, dental care and nail clipping, there will be the injuries, broken bones and swallowed objects. There will be surgeries, allergies, digestive disorders, reproductive issues, behavior problems and life-threatening conditions such as cancer and heart disease. And of course, there is always the heartbreak of having to end the lives of beloved family pets.

Ramey says she is ready for whatever challenges her career will deliver. “It’s always very sad when pets have to be put down,” she acknowledged, “but I’ve always had pets, and we had to do it.”

Witness to many surgeries at the animal hospital, Ramey does not flinch at the sight of blood. She explained that, “Things that a lot of people think are gross don’t bother me. I have a very strong stomach!”

When she has completed her course and become a certified veterinary technician, she hopes to work with small animals, although she has had personal experience in raising large animals. She was active in 4-H for years, showing a variety of livestock, including goats, pigs, lambs and a steer. “I want to work with ordinary pets — dogs and cats,” she said. Currently, she has two dogs — a  blue heeler/pit-bull mix and a lab/Rottweiler mix. 

Dana is the daughter of John and Denise Ramey.

Kiley Ramey: An Energetic Animal Lover

By Rebecca Maynard

Kiley Ramey has a love for animals — she has showed goats, lambs, pigs, and steers at the Clarke County Fair since she was in fifth grade.

“I have always been interested in doing something with animals ever since I was little,” said Ramey, who has considered the possibility of K9 dog handling training. “When I was younger I always wanted to be ‘the cop that had a dog all the time with him,’ but now that I am older and see what’s going on in the world right now, I thought maybe not so much,” she said.

“So I thought about training dogs for law enforcement officers and other things like training services dogs as well.” Online canine instructor programs and courses are available, but with graduation just days behind her, she plans to take the summer off to spend time with family and friends and go to the beach.

As vice president for the Clarke County High School FFA (Future Farmers of America), Ramey held meetings once a month after school to talk about upcoming things and make sure to get everyone’s new ideas for the chapter, such as different fundraisers. “To finish up the meetings, we would plan something fun, and every year we all looked forward to our cornhole tournament meeting, where we would finish the night and meeting with some cornhole as well as some snacks and drinks!” Kiley said. 

“I’ve competed in quite a few different events over the past four years at our state convention every year in June,” Ramey said. “I competed in plant science my freshman year along with horse judging, I continued horse judging my sophomore year, my junior year I competed in ag sales, and due to COVID-19 I won’t be able to compete this year, my senior year, at state convention.”

Ramey has an identical twin sister, Dana, and going through school and other activities together was a unique experience.

“Being a twin is actually very entertaining when we go out of town together or go anywhere together,” Ramey said. “We get very strange stares and we already knew why everyone stared at us or took a double take. We always thought that was pretty funny.

The most stressful thing is doing everything together, going through school together, and hanging with family and friends that don’t always get to see us — because they can’t always get our names right — but we have both learned just to answer to both after a while. Being out together, we have gotten used to the question ‘Are you all twins?’ at least once after walking into a store.” 

“My favorite memory out of all the years of showing would have to be showing a lamb for the first time and winning Reserve Grand Champion market lamb!” Ramey said. “My sister and I have always been the girls that showed goats and pigs, and two years ago we decided to show lambs, as well. With a lot of help from family friends and my parents, we were able to get two lambs, one for my sister and one for me. All I can say is my first year with a lamb was a lot of hard work and a lot of long walks up and down our back roads! But it all paid off in the end.”

Education and Experiences Drive this Graduate to Care for Others

René White, Clarke County Resident and Maddy’s Granné 

Madison (Maddy) Fuller, a 2020 CCHS graduate, attributes much of her education to her experiences.

During CCHS she has taken several college medical courses and became certified in Incident Command Systems and Hazmat Awareness. 

Maddy joined Blue Ridge Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company (BRVFRC) when she was 16-years old and has been running calls since she became CPR certified. This year, BRVFRC honored Maddy with the “Rescue Captain Award.” 

Maddy is a state-certified nursing assistant (CNA) and a Specialized Dementia Trainer. Last summer, Valley Health selected Maddy as one of the few “top performing CNAs” to work as an Emergency Department technician in the observation unit at their Winchester Medical Center. “Maddy’s delightful,” said Dr. Lisa Zerull, Ph.D., Valley Health’s academic liaison, who facilitates the health-care career-pathway by ensuring ‘today’s students become tomorrow’s Valley Heath employees.’ “Maddy is a highly motivated, very talented and high potential individual,” said Dr. Zerull describing Maddy’s maturity during the COVID-19 pandemic of putting on personal protective equipment to care for dying patients. “Maddy is one of those people the community says: Wow, she’s going places.” 

Maddy credits life’s experiences for real teachings. She has literally helped save people’s lives and says she is, “Designed to care.” 

“We are each designed differently, with capabilities and disabilities,” Maddy explained. “From babysitting to volunteering, I’ve always been driven towards helping others.” When asked what it means to get the most out of education Maddy said, “To my family, education means I have a greater chance of having a successful life and being able to provide for my future family. For me, education means more than this. “There are things that I know, like I know my name is Madison. There are things I know that I don’t know, like I know that I don’t know how to speak Russian. All of these things live in the area of things I know or in the realm of knowing

“What excites me, is that largely what exists in the world are things that ‘I don’t know that I don’t know.’ I would like to discover things that I don’t know that I don’t know, and move them into my realm of knowing; so, I’m conscious of the wonderment and endless possibilities of what I don’t know that I don’t know yet, in order to help others. This is what getting the most out of education means to me,” she said. 

Maddy graduates CCHS with honors and 20 college credits as a CNA and emergency medical technician. So far, Maddy has received close to $15,000 in 12 scholarships to attend nursing school at Lord Fairfax Community College. Additionally, Valley Health offered Maddy a full-time job. Maddy wants to thank her employer, teachers, community, friends and family for helping her. “I believe when I get added strength and support from others to be my full self, I really believe that I can be extraordinary for others. Helping others is in my heart,” Maddy said. “Thank you everyone.”

He Turned A Passion Into A Career

By Claire Stuart

Members of Clarke County High School Class of 2020, like every class before them, are faced with the question of what they are going to do next.

Recent research shows that the most popular college majors are business and the health professions. Currently, the “best jobs” are considered to be physical therapists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and software developers. 

Some students have been focused on a career for years, some go to college with no clear goals, hoping to find an inspiring major, and some go on to trade or technical schools.

Class of 2020 grad Hayden Hartsell is going his own way, planning a career that’s probably unfamiliar to most people.

Hartsell grew up on a farm and has never lived in town, and fall means it’s time to go deer hunting. His whole family enjoys hunting, and he started going out with his parents on hunting trips when he was about four years old. He describes deer hunting as his favorite hobby, but he occasionally hunts squirrel or turkey.

“I have a little sister,” he reports, “and she’s a more accomplished turkey hunter than I am!” Asked if he’d bagged any trophy bucks, he reports that he got a 9-pointer, with 18-inches across the brow. 

Proper maintenance of one’s hunting rifles is a must for any dedicated hunter. “But it’s expensive to have guns worked on,” says Hartsell, “so I figured that if I learned to do it myself, I’d save some money.” 

Hartsell taught himself to work on his guns through trial and error. He noted that he did go to YouTube to learn to apply bluing (a process that protects the metal finish against rust and superficial scratching) because “there are complicated chemicals.”

He had never planned on doing any more than caring for his own guns but he found that he enjoyed working on guns enough to consider doing it as a career, so he is taking an online course in professional gunsmithing. He explained that gunsmiths do a great variety of maintenance and repair. “The most common thing is that someone wants their stock redone — it’s scratched or chipped. There could be mechanical failures that the average person can’t figure out. And there can be modifications like barrel extension or re-chambering for 
new calibers.”

He reports that the course can be completed on-line in three months but students study at their own pace. “It covers all forms of modern-day civilian-use firearms, including shotguns, handguns, bolt-action rifles and traditional old style rifles.” It doesn’t include automatic weapons. The course consists of video lessons as well as physical projects that the school sends to the student to complete and return. At completion, he will be a licensed gunsmith.

But that is not Hartsell’s ultimate goal.  He plans to attend NOVA to take the first two years of a mechanical engineering program. Then he will apply to complete his degree at VCU.  Finally, he hopes to get a job with a firearms manufacturer as a firearms designer. He hasn’t gone so far as to picture himself designing a new gun, but he has already been thinking about working on recoil management systems.

Hayden is the son of Tad and Sara Hartsell of Berryville and grandson of Eddie and Barbara Hartsell of Warren County Va.

In A Hurry To Start A Career Helping Animals

By Tiffany Ford

Maeve Davis is graduating from CCHS and Mountain Vista Governor’s School with an Associates degree in science, a certificate in general education, and a career studies certificate from Allied Health.

I had the honor of talking to Maeve about her experiences and what she’s excited about now that she has graduated.

TF: What did you love about high school?
MD: One of the best parts of high school was getting into Governor’s School. It gave me the opportunity to meet people with varied interests all focused on math, technology and science, which was really exciting. My friends who go to CCHS were one of the best parts of my high school experience .We studied together, worked on projects together, laughed together.

TF: How did the Governor’s School/dual enrollment program work for you?
MD: Gov school classes are held at LFCC. I chose to take the AP classes to earn college credits. I’ve already taken a lot of the core classes that first-year college students take, so I can begin with junior-level classes. I’ll still have to stay on campus with other first years, but I can focus more on my field of study and graduate or transfer into a Master’s program much earlier.

TF: What do students need to know about dual enrollment? 
MD: I think there’s a negative connotation about community college that did not reflect my experience. LFCC is a great school. Campus grounds are amazing and well kept. The professors were always very nice and willing to help. It is an amazing opportunity to expand your education and to lessen the burden of college costs. If you can begin to chip away at it early, you can lessen the burden, whether it be financial, educational, or social later in life. The program is not for everyone; I did have to take a couple of extra classes to get my Associates degree but it was worth it.

TF: So, what happens next for you?
MD: I’ll be attending Virginia Tech this fall — hopefully — they haven’t made an announcement yet. I’m majoring in animal and poultry sciences with a possible dual minor in biology and history. I’m considering veterinary work specializing in marine or livestock. Which seems like a wide field, but I’ve worked with farm animals all my life, and I’m very comfortable with them. And there’s something so exciting about marine life. So I may work at a marine rehabilitation center or study environmental impacts on marine life.

TF: What would you say drives you?
MD: I have always known I wanted to be a vet. When you’re younger, you don’t think about money or things like that; so, for me, it was always just to get the learning done so I could help people and animals faster. Growing up, that hasn’t changed. But I’m more aware of the cost now. For me, getting into Governor’s School was like getting into college. When I opened that letter, that was my “I got into Tech” moment. For me it is: The sooner I get into school and get my degree, the sooner I can start helping animals and, in turn, 
helping people.