Virginia Landlord Tenant Law

Looking for clear and concise information on Virginia landlord tenant law? Get all your answers from this plain English guide to the Virginia Landlord Tenant Act.

VA Landlord Tenant Law:

  • Virginia Code Title 55, Chapter 13.2 - Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

If the landlord owns two or less single family houses, he or she can choose to opt of out of this Act by stating so in the rental agreement. [VA 55-248.3:1.(B)]

Tenant Application

Application Fees

The landlord can ask prospective tenants for application fees to cover the costs of background and credit checks. The fee amount should be reasonable - We recommend charging $25 to $30 per applicant. If the landlord did not run any tenant screening checks, the fees should be refunded.

Background and Credit Check

Before running background or credit checks on tenant applicants, landlords must first obtain the applicant's written permission. [Fair Credit Reporting Act § 604(a)(3)(F)]

For landlords to run background and credit checks, the tenant application form needs to ask for the applicant's:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • social security number or ITIN (individual taxpayer identification number)
  • current address
  • signed consent (e.g. "I authorize the use of the information and contacts provided to complete a credit, reference, and/or background check.")

Avoiding Discrimination

The federal Fair Housing Act disallows landlords from rejecting prospective renters based on their race, color, religion, nationality, sex, *familial status or physical/mental disability. *Familial status means landlords cannot reject someone for having one or more children under 18. Familial status also includes pregnant women and people planning to have (or adapt) children under 18.

In addition, Virginia landlord tenant law disallows landlords from rejecting someone as a renter because of age.

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Tenancy Agreement

A tenancy agreement (also known as a lease agreement or rental agreement) can be written or verbal.

The landlord and tenant can choose between a month to month tenancy or fixed term lease. For a month to month tenancy, the landlord or tenant can change its terms and conditions at the end of every month. For a fixed term lease, the landlord and tenant CANNOT change the lease terms and conditions during its duration... unless there is written consent from both parties.

Unless the rental agreement specifies a fix term, the tenancy shall be month to month by default. If the tenant is renting a room and paying rent every week, then the tenancy shall be week to week. [VA 55-248.7.(D)]

What Landlord Must Disclose

Before entering into a rental agreement, Virginia landlord tenant law requires the landlord to disclose the following to the tenant:

  • Military Air Installation: If the property is near a military air installation, the landlord must inform prospective tenants in writing that the property is located in a noise or accident potential zone. [VA 55-248.12:1.(A)]
  • Defective Drywall: If the property has defective drywall, the landlord must inform prospective tenants in writing before entering into a tenancy.  [VA 55-248.12:2.(A)]
  • Methamphetamine (Meth): If the property was used to manufacture meth and hasn't been cleaned up to code [VA 32.1-11.7.], the landlord must inform prospective tenants in writing before entering into a tenancy. [VA 55-248.12:3.(A)]
  • Lead Paint: If the property was built before 1978, the landlord must inform prospective tenants if the property contains lead-based paint. In addition, the landlord has to give them a pamphlet of Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home. [Health and Safety Code Section 17920.10]

Required for Tenancy Agreement

Virginia landlord tenant law requires all tenancy agreements to contain the following details [VA 55-248.12.(A)]:

  • Name and address of person authorized to manage the property
  • Name and address or property owner or owner's agent (person authorized to act on behalf of owner)

Recommended for Tenancy Agreement

  • Name and address of tenant(s)
  • Number of people (occupants) staying on the property
  • Type of tenancy: month to month tenancy or fixed term lease
  • How much is the rent
  • When, how and where the rent is to be paid
  • When is rent is considered late and the penalties for late rent payment
  • How much is the security deposit and pet deposit (if any)
  • Who holds the deposit(s) and where will it be held
  • What utilities and services are provided and who pays for them
  • What are the landlord's and tenant's duties for property maintenance
  • Can the tenant sublet the property or assign the lease
  • When to inform the landlord if tenant will be away for a long time
  • Prohibited activities and items

Disallowed for Tenancy Agreement

According to Virginia landlord tenant law, your lease agreement CANNOT [VA 55-248.9]:

  • make the tenant give up any legal rights or remedies under the Virginia Landlord Tenant Act
  • permit the tenant to authorize another person to confess judgment (on a claim arising from the rental agreement)
  • make the tenant pay for the landlord's attorney fees (unless allowed by the Virginia Landlord Tenant Act)
  • dismiss or limit the landlord's liability when the landlord has failed in his or her duties
  • make the tenant pay a combined total of over two month's rent for security deposit plus bond provision plus commercial insurance policy

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Security Deposit

According to Virginia landlord tenant law, the landlord can ask for up to two month's rent as security deposit. [VA 55-248.15:1]

There are no Virginia landlord tenant laws on security deposit holding methods and security deposit interest.

Deductions and Returns

Virginia landlord tenant law requires the landlord to inform the tenant of the terms and conditions for security deposit deductions. [VA 55-248.15:1.(A)]
  
Valid reasons for security deposit deductions (under Virginia landlord tenant law) include:

  • Rent owed and late rent fees
  • Costs and losses incurred by landlord due to the tenant failing in his or her duties - See Tenant Duties and Responsibilities below
  • Other damages and charges listed in rental agreement

The landlord is NOT allowed to take money from the security deposit due to damage from *normal wear and tear. *Normal wear and tear is the natural deterioration of the property (and its contents) from normal everyday use.

Once the lease terminates and the tenant returns the property, the landlord must send the tenant a list of security deposit deductions and refund any remaining deposit within 45 days. This list has to individually account for all damages and rent owed in writing.

The landlord can also make security deposit deduction DURING the tenancy (30 or more days left on the lease) by sending the above itemized list of deductions to the tenant.

If the landlord fails to follow Virginia landlord tenant law for deducting and returning security deposit, the tenant can recover the full deposit amount (minus any rent owed) plus actual damages and attorney fees.

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Virginia Beach, Virginia VA

Virginia Landlord Tenant Law

Rent

The tenant has to pay the rent without demand or reminders. As long as the landlord and tenant are agreeable, they can choose the time, place and method of rent payment. [VA 55-248.7.(C)]

The landlord shall give the tenant with a written receipt upon request whenever the tenant pays rent by cash or a money order. [VA 55-248.7.(h)]

After receiving any prepaid rent from the tenant, the landlord shall deposit it in an escrow account (of a federally insured depository) within five business days. [VA 55-248.7:1]

Late Rent

There are no Virginia landlord tenant statutes on imposing charges for late rent payments.

If the landlord wants to impose late rent charges, it has to be specified in the tenancy agreement. While there are no state laws on late fees, landlords cannot overcharge or impose unfair terms. Otherwise the tenant can refuse to pay and challenge the late fees in court.

Most states consider reasonable late fees to be around 3 to 5% of the rent amount. In addition, landlords should wait until rent payment is at least three days late before charging late fees.

Raising Rent

There are no specific Virginia landlord tenant statutes on raising rent.

We recommend that the landlord and tenant work out the following details and include them in the rental agreement:

  • When can the landlord raise the rent?
  • How many days notice does the landlord have to give before raising the rent?
  • How many days notice does the tenant have to give if he or she is moving out due to the rent increase?
  • Maximum amount or percentage of rent increase (optional)

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Property Maintenance

Move-In Inspection: Within five days of the tenant moving into the property, the landlord has to give the tenant a written report individually accounting for any preexisting damages.This report has to also state whenever there is visible mold inside the rental unit. [VA 55-248.11:2]

 After receiving this report, the tenant has five days to dispute it in writing. [VA 55-248.11:1]

Landlord Duties and Responsibilities

The Virginia Landlord Tenant Act requires the landlord to maintain the property in a safe and habitable condition [VA 55-248.13]:

  • Compliance: Obey all building and housing codes that affect health and safety
  • Repairs: Make all repairs to keep the property safe and habitable
  • Common Areas: Keep all common areas clean and safe
  • Maintenance: Maintain all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities (e.g. elevators) in safe working condition
  • Mold Control: Keep the property free from mold and remove any visible mold inside the property
  • Waste Disposal: Provide outlets for waste disposal and arrange for waste removal
  • Heating: Supply running water, hot water and air conditioning (as far as conditions allow)
  • Carbon Monoxide Alarm: Maintain any carbon monoxide alarms inside the rental unit

Tenant Duties and Responsibilities

Virginia landlord tenant law also requires the tenant to keep the property in a clean and safe condition [VA 55-248.16]:

  • Compliance: Obey all building and housing codes that affect health and safety
  • Cleanliness: Keep the property clean and safe (as far as conditions will allow)
  • Pest Control: Keep the property free from insects and pests and report their existence to the landlord as soon as possible. If pest extermination ended up costing more due to the tenant's delayed reporting, the tenant shall have to pay for the extra costs
  • The tenant has to pay for any added cost of pest extermination
  • Waste Disposal: Dispose all waste from the property in a clean and safe manner
  • Plumbing: Keep all plumbing fixtures in rental unit clean (as far as conditions will allow)
  • Proper Usage: Use all facilities and appliances properly. This includes all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, kitchen and common area facilities (e.g. elevators)
  • Property Damage: Avoid property damage due to negligence, misuse or abuse by the tenant, occupants or tenant's guests
  • Mold Control: Keep the property free from mold and inform the landlord when there is visible mold inside the property
  • Neighbors: Avoid disturbing neighbors and also disallow others from disturbing neighbors
  • Regulations: Follow all of the landlord's rules and regulations (as long as they are reasonable)

If Landlord Violates Rental Agreement or Fails to Perform Duties

If the landlord violates the rental agreement or fails to perform his or her duties (see Landlord Duties and Responsibilities above) AND this affects health and safety, the tenant can give the landlord a written notice stating the problems and giving the landlord 21 days to correct them. This notice must also state that the rental agreement will terminate in 30 days if the problems aren't fixed in time. [VA 55-248.21]

If the problems are corrected within 21 days (of the landlord receiving this notice), then the tenancy shall continue.

However if the landlord deliberately violates the tenancy agreement (or fails in his or her duty) in a similar manner for the second time, the tenant can send the landlord a 30 day written notice stating the landlord's first violation, second violation and lease termination date. In this case, the tenancy will have to terminate.

In addition, the tenant can obtain a court order (that requires the landlord to correct the violations) and recover damages plus attorney fees.

If Landlord Fails to Provide Essential Services

If the landlord fails to provide an essential service (such as heat, running water, hot water, electricity or gas), the tenant must give the landlord a written notice stating the problem and give the landlord a reasonable amount to provide the service. [VA 55-248.23.]

If the landlord fails to provide the service in time, the tenant can EITHER:

  1. Recover damages based on the property's drop in rental value OR
  2. Move to substitute housing and stop paying rent until the essential service is restored.

In both cases, the tenant can also recover attorney fees from the landlord. [VA 55-248.23.(B)]

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Property Access

When Tenant's Permission is Required

According to Virginia landlord tenant law, the landlord is only allowed to enter the property for the following reasons [VA 55-248.18]:

  • Inspecting property
  • Performing property maintenance, repairs or improvements
  • Supplying essential (or mutually agreed) services and utilities
  • Showing property to prospective buyers, lenders, tenants, workmen or contractors

In the above situations, the landlord must inform the tenant at least 24 hours in advance before entering the property. The landlord can only enter the property with the tenant's consent and during reasonable hours.

When Tenant's Permission is NOT Required

According to Virginia landlord tenant law, the landlord may enter the property without permission in the following situations:

  • Emergencies such as smoke, fire, flooding or explosion [VA 55-248.18.(A)]
  • Court order granting landlord access to the property
  • Tenant has abandoned or surrendered the property [VA 55-248.18.(C)]

If Tenant Refuses Landlord's Valid Request to Enter Property

The tenant cannot deny access if the landlord has a valid reason to enter the property. [VA 55-248.10:1]

Otherwise the landlord can EITHER

  1. obtain a court order that requires the tenant to let the landlord in OR
  2. terminate the lease agreement.

In addition, the landlord can also sue the tenant for actual damages and attorney fees.

If Landlord Enters Property Illegally

The landlord must have a valid reason and obtain the tenant's permission (whenever required) to enter the property. I[VA 55-248.10:1] f the landlord fails to do so or harasses the tenant, the tenant can EITHER

  1. obtain a court order that stops the landlord from entering the property illegally or harassing the tenant OR
  2. terminate the lease agreement.

In addition, the tenant can also sue the tenant for actual damages and attorney fees.

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Subletting

If the lease rental agreement allows the landlord to approve or reject subtenants or assignees, the landlord shall have to approve or reject them within 10 business days of receiving their written application. If the landlord fails to do so, it will be assumed that he or she has approved the subtenant or assignee. [VA 55-248.7.(E)]

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Richmond, Virginia VA

Richmond, Virginia VA

Termination of Tenancy

Number of Days for Notice to Quit

Before terminating a tenancy, Virginia landlord tenant law requires you to give the other party a written notice to quit in advance [VA 55-248.37(a)]:

Week to week tenancy

7 days

Month to month tenancy

30 days

TENANT

If you are the tenant, the following are the minimum number of days for giving your landlord a notice to quit:

Landlord failed to disclose compulsory issues before tenancy

15 days

Landlord failed to maintain property

30 days

Landlord entered property illegally

Immediate

Tenant is deployed in the armed forces or national guard

See below

Tenant is a victim of family abuse, sexual abuse or sexual assault

See below

Property damage due to fire, disaster or unavoidable accident

Immediate

Landlord Failed to Disclose Compulsory Issues Before Tenancy

If the landlord fails to disclose any of the following issues to the tenant BEFORE entering a tenancy, then the tenant can terminate the rental agreement:

1. Property is located near a military air installation

The tenant can send the landlord a written 15 day notice to quit by certified or registered mail to terminate the lease agreement in the first 30 days of tenancy. [VA 55-248.12:1.(B)]

2. Property has defective drywall

The tenant can give the landlord a written 15 day notice to quit to terminate the lease agreement (within 60 days of discovering this issue). [VA 55-248.12:2.(B)]

3. Property was used to manufacture methamphetamine and wasn't cleaned up to code

The tenant can give the landlord a written 15 day notice to quit to terminate the lease agreement (within 60 days of discovering this issue). [VA 55-248.12:3.(A)]

Tenant is Deployed in the Armed Forces or National Guard

Virginia landlord tenant law allows a service member to terminate the tenancy agreement if ONE of the following conditions is met [VA 55-248.21:1.(A)]:

  • Service member received orders for a permanent change of station that is 35 miles or more from the rental unit
  • Service member received orders for a temporary duties that is 35 miles or more from the rental unit for more than three months
  • Service member is discharged or released from active duty
  • Service member received orders requiring him or her to move into government quarters and forfeit his or her housing allowance

The tenant may terminate the rental agreement by giving the landlord a written notice to quit AND a copy of the official orders or signed verification letter by the tenant's commanding officer. [VA 55-248.21:1.(B)]

The lease shall be terminated 30 days after the next rent due date (e.g. If the tenant gives notice to quit on 10 Jan and rent is due on 15 Jan, then the lease shall terminate on 15 Feb).

Tenant is a Victim of Family Abuse, Sexual Abuse or Sexual Assault

If the tenant is a victim of family abuse, sexual abuse or sexual assault, he or she can terminate the tenancy by giving the landlord a written notice of termination PLUS a copy of a protective order or conviction order naming the tenant as a victim of domestic abuse. [VA 55-248.21:2]

The lease shall be terminated 30 days after the next rent due date (e.g. If the tenant gives notice to quit on 10 Jan and rent is due on 15 Jan, then the lease shall terminate on 15 Feb).

Property Damage Due to Fire, Disaster or Unavoidable Accident

If the property is badly damaged by fire, disaster or unavoidable accident, the tenant can immediately move out and stop paying rent. The tenancy shall terminate once the tenant moves out. The tenant must inform the landlord that he or she intends to terminate the tenancy within 14 days of moving out. [VA 55-248.24]

If only part of the property is damaged, the tenant should move out of the damaged area. The rent amount will be lowered based on how much of the property is still livable. [VA 55-226]

After the tenant moves out, the landlord must return the security deposit (after any deductions) to the tenant. The tenant won't have to pay rent starting from the date of the fire or natural disaster, so the landlord must also return any prepaid rent to the tenant.

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Eviction

According to Virginia landlord tenant law, the following are valid reasons for evicting tenants and the minimum number of days for giving them a notice to quit:

Tenant refused landlord's valid request to enter property

See Property Access

Tenant was late in paying rent

5 days

Tenant violated tenancy agreement or didn't perform duties

30 days

Tenant or related person was involved in criminal or willful acts on property

Immediate

Property Damage Due to Fire, Disaster or Unavoidable Accident

14 days

Tenant was Late in Paying Rent

If the tenant did not pay rent on time OR makes an unsuccessful payment (invalid check or fund transfer due to insufficient funds), the landlord can send the tenant a five day written notice to terminate the tenancy. This notice must state the amount of rent owed and that the rental agreement shall be terminated if rent isn't paid within five days. [VA 55-248.31.(F)]

If the rent is paid within seven days, then tenancy shall continue.

Tenant Violated Tenancy Agreement or Didn't Perform Duties

If the tenant violates the tenancy agreement in a *significant manner, the landlord can send the tenant a written 30 day notice to terminate the tenancy. *Significant manner refers to situations that affects human health and safety.

Similarly if the tenant fails to perform his or her duties (see Tenant Duties and Responsibilities above) in a *significant manner, the landlord can also send the tenant a written 30 day notice to terminate the tenancy. [VA 55-248.31.(A)]

This written notice has to state what is the tenant's violation or failure in duty. If the tenant corrects the problem within 30 days, then the tenancy shall continue. [VA 55-248.31.(B)]

Tenant or Related Person was Involved in Criminal or Willful Acts on Property

If the tenant (or tenant's occupant or tenant's guest) engaged in criminal or willful acts on the property, the landlord can terminate the tenancy immediately by sending the tenant a written notice to quit.

Virginia landlord tenant law lists the following as criminal or willful acts: illegal drug activities involving controlled substances and acts threatening health and safety. [VA 55-248.31.(c)]

Property Damage Due to Fire, Disaster or Unavoidable Accident

If the property is badly damaged by fire, disaster or unavoidable accident, the landlord can send the tenant a 14 day written notice to terminate the tenancy. [VA 55-248.24]

If only part of the property is damaged, the tenant should move out of the damaged area. The rent amount will be lowered based on how much of the property is still livable. [VA 55-226]

Unlawful Eviction

According to Virginia landlord tenant law, the landlord CANNOT force the tenant to move out by shutting off utilities (electricity, water, gas, sanitation) or taking possession of the property by force without a court hearing. [VA 55-248.26]
   
If the landlord forces the tenant to move out with unlawful methods or shuts off utilities, the tenant can EITHER

  1. obtain a court order (to regain possession of the property or restore essential utilities) OR
  2. terminate the tenancy agreement.

 In addition, the tenant can also sue the landlord for actual damages and attorney fees.

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Abandonment

When is it Abandonment?

IF all of the following conditions are met [VA 55-248.33]:

  1. Tenant has been absent from the property for more than seven days
  2. Tenant did not inform the landlord that he or she will be away from the property
  3. Landlord isn't sure if tenant has abandoned the property

THEN the landlord shall send the tenant a written notice requiring the tenant to confirm in writing within seven days that he or she still intends to occupy the rental unit.

If the tenant fails to reply within seven days, the property is to be considered abandoned (under Virginia landlord tenant law) and the rental agreement shall terminate.

Dealing with Abandoned Belongings

If the landlord had given the tenant a termination or abandonment notice that stated abandoned belongings shall be disposed 24 hours after lease termination, then the landlord can dump, give or sell them after 24 hours. After the lease terminates, the tenant shall have 24 hours to remove his or her belongings from the property. [VA 55-248.38:1]

Otherwise the landlord has to give the tenant a separate written notice stating that the tenant's abandoned belongings shall be disposed within 24 hours if they aren't removed after 10 days.

If the landlord sells the belongings, he or she can use the revenue to pay for the following:

  • Cost of moving and storing the belongings
  • Cost of selling the belongings
  • Any remaining rent owed or damages that the tenant is responsible for (after deducting from the security deposit first)

Any leftover revenue shall be treated as security deposit and returned to the tenant.

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Resources

Virginia Landlord Tenant Law: Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

Virginia Landlord Tenant Resources: Virginia DHCD Tenant and Landlord Resources

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