Landlords in Virginia have a right to evict tenants under certain circumstances. To successfully conduct an eviction and protect yourself from legal issues, you must have just cause and follow the proper eviction process as outlined by Virginia’s Landlord-Tenant Laws.
Evictions based on self-help tactics, as well as those based on retaliatory or discriminatory reasons are illegal and are likely to have legal ramifications!
The following post outlines everything landlords need to know about the eviction process in Virginia.
Grounds for Evicting a Tenant in Virginia
As mentioned, landlords must have just cause in order to start eviction procedures against their tenants. This means that, as a landlord, you cannot unfairly evict your tenants – landlords must have a legally valid reason.
The following are acceptable reasons for a tenant eviction in Virginia.
- Nonpayment of rent.
- Breach of lease terms.
- Creation of a nuisance.
- Excessive property damage.
- Criminal activities.
- Preventing reasonable entry by the landlord.
- Failure to move out after expiry of the rental agreement.
Tenant Eviction Process in Virginia
Notice for Lease Termination with a Legal Cause
Nonpayment of Rent
Missing rent payments is a common reason for tenant evictions in Virginia. Once rent is past due, you can begin the formal eviction process against a tenant by providing them a 5-Day Notice to Pay.
The 5-Day Notice to Pay tells the tenant that they have 5 days to pay the past due amount to avoid getting evicted. If they pay rent within the 5 day window, you must stop further eviction proceedings against them. Otherwise, you may continue with the eviction after the 5 day period is over.
Violation of the Lease Agreement
You can also evict your renter if the tenant fails to honor their lease obligations. Virginia categorizes a lease violation as either curable or incurable.
Curable lease violations are those that can be fixed within the notice period. Incurable violations of the lease agreement, on the other hand, are those that can’t be fixed after the tenant violates the terms. The tenant must vacate the unit if they have enacted an incurable violation.
For curable violations, you must serve the tenant with a 30-Day Notice to Comply. This will give them 21 days to correct the violation. If they don’t abide by this written notice within 21 days, you must wait an extra nine days to continue the process.
Examples of curable violations include:
- Causing minor damage to the unit.
- Exceeding the occupancy limit by having too many people residing in it.
- Keeping an unauthorized pet.
- Smoking inside the unit when the lease prohibits it.
For an incurable violation, you must provide your tenant with a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
This will give the tenant 30 days to move out. If they don’t, you may continue with the Virginia eviction process.
Examples of incurable violations include:
- A material health and safety violation.
- Excessive property damage.
End of Lease Agreements
A rental agreement runs for a specific period of time. When it ends, a tenant has the option to either renew the lease with the permission of the landlord or move out. If the tenant takes neither of these avenues, they are considered a holdover tenant.
To evict a holdover tenant, you must serve them an eviction notice that’s commensurate with the type of tenancy.
For tenants who pay rent on a weekly basis, you must serve a 7-Day Notice to Quit. This will give them 7 days to move out of the unit in order to avoid an eviction. The same formula applies to tenants who pay rent on a monthly basis. You must serve them a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
Virginia defines illegal activity in three ways: criminal activity, illegal drug activity, and violent acts that threaten someone’s health or safety.
Unlike in other circumstances, Virginia landlords aren’t obligated to provide any notice period prior to beginning the Virginia eviction process if illegal activities are being conducted. Simply put, if your tenant is participating in illegal activities you can proceed with the eviction action immediately.
Summons and Complaint
The next step is filing a complaint in an appropriate court. You have the option to file this complaint in either a circular or a district court. This process costs about $150.
Once the court’s clerk has notarized your complaint it’s the duty of the process server to serve it to the tenant. The service must be completed at least 10 days prior to the eviction hearing date.
Court Hearing and Judgment
The tenant can choose whether they wish to appear at the hearing. If they choose to appear, the court will hear any defense they have against their eviction.
These defenses could include any of the following.
- The landlord tried to remove them through illegal means.
- The landlord locked them out by changing the unit’s locks.
- The eviction process didn’t follow Virginia law.
- The eviction was retaliatory, resulting from the tenant exercising any of their rights such as reporting the landlord to a relevant government agency for a habitability violation.
- The landlord terminated the lease because the tenant had become a victim of domestic abuse.
- The landlord failed to maintain the unit to the expected safety, health and structural standards.
- The eviction was based on discrimination due to the tenant’s race, color, sex, or any other protected characteristics.
However, if the tenant chooses not to appear for the hearing, the court will most likely rule in favor of the landlord. Should the court rule in your favor, the court will issue you a writ of eviction and the eviction process may continue.
The writ of eviction serves as the tenant’s final written notice to vacate the unit. The court may issue it to you as soon as 10 days after the judgment.
Even after a successful ruling, it is still illegal for you to remove the tenant using self-help tactics.
These tactics include:
- Changing the locks on the rental unit.
- Removing the tenant’s belongings from the rental property.
- Shutting down previously available utilities.
Only a sheriff, through a court order, can forcefully remove a tenant from the premises.
As a Virginia landlord, you must remain up to date on all Landlord-Tenant Laws to ensure the success of your rental! However, laws are subject to change which can make them difficult to keep up with.
Our team at Dodson Property Management are Landlord-Tenant Law experts and are eager to help you with all your rental property management needs!
Reach out to us today!
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice. Also, laws change, and this post may not be updated at the time you read it. For questions regarding this content, please get in touch with a licensed attorney or the expert team at Dodson Property Management.