Virginia landlords, just like tenants, are entitled to certain rights. One of the most important landlord rights is the right to ask for a security deposit. Security deposits provide landlords some protection against financial damage that their tenants may cause.
For instance, if your tenant becomes unable to pay rent due to job loss or an illness. One of the things you can do is make an appropriate deduction from their deposit once they move out.
However, when handling a tenant’s security deposits you must follow certain rules outlined by the state’s Landlord-Tenant Laws. The state of Virginia requires landlords to follow the following rules when handling their tenants’ security deposits.
Maximum Security Deposit
Simply put, you cannot charge your tenants just any amount for their security deposit; there is a limit you must adhere to. Under Virginia law, the most a landlord can request for a security deposit is two months’ rent.
Do you allow pets in your rental property? If so, then Virginia law allows you to ask for an additional pet deposit. This is a one-time fee that you can use to cover damages caused by your tenant’s pet. Such damages include stains on the wall, scratches on the floor, and flea infestations in the carpet.
However, please note that such fees aren’t applicable to disabled tenants who use a service animal. That’s because disability is a protected characteristic under the federal Fair Housing Act. This act requires landlords to provide disabled tenants with full and equal access to housing.
Allowable Deductions on Tenants’ Security Deposits
You have a right to use part or all of your tenant’s deposit for certain reasons. The reasons are as follows.
- Unpaid rent. If your tenant moves out without paying their rent or late payment charges, you can use part or all of their deposit towards those costs.
- Clearing unpaid utility bills. Utility bills such as electric and gas are usually in the tenant’s name. If they move out without paying them, you have a justified reason to use part or all of their deposit to cover these costs.
- Damage exceeding normal wear and tear. There are two types of damage that can occur in a rental property: normal wear and tear and excessive damage. The former is the landlord’s financial responsibility, whereas the latter is the tenant’s.
- Any charges allowed in the lease agreement. A parking fee is a good example of this. If your tenant moves out without paying such charges, you can make the necessary security deposit deductions.
- Any other financial damage resulting from your tenant breaching the lease agreement.
Normal Wear and Tear vs. Property Damage
These two terms often cause conflict between landlords and tenants. A tenant moving out may think they have left the property just like they found it, but the landlord may hold a contrary view.
Knowing the difference between these two terms can help you, as a landlord, avoid potential conflicts with your tenants. Normal wear and tear refers to standard deterioration that a property undergoes from regular use and as it ages.
Examples of this include lightly scratched glass, stained bath fixtures, faded paint, and loose door handles. Since this kind of damage isn’t your tenant’s fault, repairing these issues is solely your responsibility.
Property damage, on the other hand, refers to destruction caused by a tenant’s negligence or carelessness. Examples of property damage include broken tiles, pet damage, damaged fixtures, and holes in the walls. The financial responsibility for fixing such damage is your tenant’s.
Receipt for a Security Deposit
In some states, landlords are obligated to provide their tenants with a receipt after receiving their security deposit. This, however, isn’t the case in the state of Virginia.
As a landlord, you have a responsibility to keep records of security deposits for your tenants. Your records must also contain any itemized deductions made on tenants’ deposits over the prior two years.
You must also make these records available for viewing by the tenant, their attorney, or their authorized agent. These viewings must occur during normal business hours.
Walk Through Inspections
Tenants in Virginia have a right to a walk-through inspection. Thus, as a landlord, you must make reasonable efforts to let your tenant know they have the right to be present during these inspections.
You must notify your tenant of a walk through inspection at least 5 days prior to their intended move-out date. Or, if you’re the one terminating the lease agreement, you must serve a walk through inspection notice when you serve the vacating notice.
If the tenant wishes to be present during the inspection, they must make such intentions known in writing. The scheduled date must not be more than 3 days prior to the move-out day. During the inspection, you must itemize any damages found and give your tenant a copy of the itemized list.
Returning a Tenant’s Security Deposit
You have 45 days after your tenant moves out to return their security deposit. If you’ve made any deductions, you must also provide your tenant with a written itemized list of the deductions made, as well as the balance of their security deposit. You must do this delivery via certified mail or in person.
Wrongfully withholding your tenant’s security deposit can have financial consequences. Among other things, you may lose your right to make any deductions and be made to pay back damages plus the costs of the suit.
Sale of Rental Property
Once you sell off your investment property, the responsibility of handling tenants’ security deposits shifts to the new owner.
When renting out a property in Virginia, it’s crucial that you’re well versed in the state’s security deposit laws. However, this task can often be difficult as laws are subject to change.
Our team at Dodson Property Management is well versed in all Landlord-Tenant Laws and would be happy to assist you in all aspects of property management. Feel free to reach out to us today!
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice. It’s only meant to be
educational. If you have a specific question regarding the Virginia security deposit rules,
kindly get in touch with a qualified lawyer or an experienced property management