Virginia Landlord-Tenant Law
Virginia Landlord-Tenant Laws
Virginia landlord-tenant law sets up the foundation for residential leases in Virginia. Landlords and tenants can build upon this foundation to make the rental agreement of their choosing. Most of the landlords in Virginia say they are familiar with the state’s landlord-tenant law, and we believe this has been key to their success. We ranked the best landlords in the US based on a survey of our landlords and the landlords in Virginia are in the top ten in the nation. Most of the cities in Virginia, such as Virginia Beach, follow the Virginia Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (VRLTA). Therefore, in this guide we will provide an overview of the Virginia Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, and outline some best practices that landlords in Virginia should follow.
Security Deposit Laws in Virginia
Virginia does not require landlords to collect security deposits, but they can be a helpful way for the landlord to avoid absorbing costs for damage caused by tenants. It is also a helpful way to test the financial stability of the prospective tenant. To afford a deposit, tenants need to have saved money.
In Virginia, the amount of a security deposit cannot exceed the cost of two months of rent. When the lease is over, the landlord must return the deposit to the former tenant within 45 days of the former tenant moving out. Landlords can withhold part or all of the deposit to cover:
- Late rent
- Damage to the apartment in excess of normal wear and tear
- Breaking provisions in the lease
- Unpaid utility bills
In most situations, landlords will withhold a security deposit to cover damages to the unit caused by the tenant. To withhold a security deposit due to damage to the apartment, the landlord must inspect the unit within five days of the former tenant moving out and send the former tenant a report detailing the damage to the unit.
Instead of a security deposit, a landlord may require a tenant to get renter’s insurance for their apartment. However, if the cost of renter’s insurance and the security deposit is more than two month’s rent then the landlord cannot require the tenant to put down a security deposit and get renter’s insurance.
In addition to security deposits, landlords may also require that tenants pay an application deposit or an application fee. Application deposits are amounts landlords charge to hold an apartment for a tenant during the application process. If the tenant does not rent the apartment, the landlord must return the application deposit to the tenant. If the tenant rents the apartment, the landlord can add the application deposit to the security deposit for the rental agreement.
Landlords may also charge non-refundable application fees. Application fees are used to cover the administrative cost of the application process. Application fees cannot exceed $50. If the apartment is part of government housing, the application fee cannot exceed $32.
Rental Agreement Laws in Virginia
In Virginia, written rental agreements are only required if the lease is longer than 12 months. However, we recommend that landlords always use a written agreement, regardless of the length of the agreement. If there is a dispute about the rental agreement, a written agreement will offer the clearest proof of what the landlord and tenant agreed to do.
The rental agreement must include the name and address of the owner and manager of the rental property. The rest of the clauses in the lease depend on what the landlord would like to put in the lease.
In Virginia, the rental agreement cannot include:
- A waiver of the tenant’s rights under the VRLTA
- A clause stating the tenant agrees to pay the landlord’s lawyer fees
- A clause stating the tenant agrees to pay a security deposit and post a surety bond
The landlord must provide the tenant with a copy of the lease within thirty days of the tenant signing the lease. Check out our tips to make your rental lease even better.
Rules and Regulations
Landlords often have additional rules and regulations in connection with renting an apartment. Under Virginia law, for a landlord to implement valid regulations, the landlord must abide by the following guidelines.
- The purpose of the rule is to promote convenience, safety, or welfare.
- The rule is reasonably related to its purpose.
- It applies to all tenants in a fair manner.
- It is clear what the tenant must do or must not do.
- It is not for the purpose of evading landlord duties.
- The tenant is provided a copy when the tenant signs the lease or when the rules are adopted.
If the landlord creates the rules after the tenant moves in, the rules cannot substantially change the lease. Additionally, the rules will be valid only if the tenant agrees to the rules in writing.
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Within in five days of the tenant moving in, the rental unit must be inspected by either the landlord or tenant for existing damage to the apartment. Any visible mold in the apartment should be included in the report. After either the tenant or landlord completes the inspection, they must send the other party a report of the damage found during the inspection. After receiving a copy of the report, the landlord or tenant should respond in writing if they do not agree with the report.
We recommend landlords provide tenants this move-in inspection.
Rental Payments and Late Fees in Virginia
Tenants can pay rent in any form of payment that the landlord will accept. If the tenant pays in cash, the landlord must give the tenant a receipt if the tenant asks for a receipt.
The tenant may also request a written statement showing all debits and credits over the tenancy, or the past 12 months, whichever is shorter. The landlord must provide the statement within ten days of the tenant’s request.
Payments are easy to track if you collect rent online.
If the tenant pays rent late, the landlord may charge late fees, if the landlord put the late fees in the lease. Landlords may also charge a processing fee for bounced checks. Processing fees cannot exceed $50.00.
Virginia Laws on Repairs
The landlord must keep the rental property in a habitable condition. In addition to following building and housing codes that affect health and safety, landlords must do the following:
- Keep the common areas of the building clean.
- Keep all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, in working condition.
- Take steps to prevent the buildup of mold.
- Supply heat, air conditioning, and running hot water.
- Maintain a carbon monoxide alarm that has been installed by the landlord in a dwelling unit.
If the tenant is seeking repairs to the unit, the tenant must send the landlord notice of the defect in writing. If the landlord cannot repair the defect within 21 days, then the tenant may terminate the lease. However, to end the lease the tenant must notify the landlord thirty days in advance that if the landlord does not make the requested repairs, he or she will leave.
Terminating the Lease
When the landlord and tenant have a rental agreement for a specific amount of time, it is assumed that the rental agreement ends after the specified amount of time has passed. The landlord and tenant may mutually agree to terminate or renew the lease. If the rental agreement ends, and the landlord consents to the tenant staying in the apartment, the agreement changes to a month-to-month agreement, with rent at the same rate as the expired agreement. If the landlord does not agree to the tenant’s occupancy after the rental period ends, then the tenant is a holdover, and the landlord can sue the tenant.
In a month-to-month rental agreement, the tenant or landlord must provide 30 days’ notice to terminate the rental agreement.
Military Personnel Terminating Lease Early
Military personnel have special privileges in Virginia in regards to the termination or their leases. Military personnel may end the lease early for the following reasons:
- Orders changing station to a base over 35 miles away
- Temporary orders longer than three months over 35 miles away
- Discharged from active duty
- Ordered to report to government-supplied quarters resulting in the loss of basic allowance for quarters
The tenant must notify the landlord of his or her desire to end the lease early. The notice must be sent to the landlord with a copy of the military order at least 30 days before the lease terminates.The tenant may not end the lease earlier than 60 days before the orders go into effect.
Virginia Laws on Eviction
A landlord can evict the tenant for the following:
- The tenant has not paid rent
- The intentional damage to the premises
- A breach of the rental agreement
- The use of the premises for illegal drug activity
If the landlord is evicting the tenant for breaching the rental agreement the landlord must provide the tenant with 30 days’ notice of eviction. The notice must state that if the tenant does not correct the defect within 30 days, the tenant will be evicted from the unit. If the tenant cures the defect, the tenant will not be evicted.
If the landlord is evicting the tenant because the tenant has not paid rent, then the landlord must give the tenant five days’ notice of eviction. If the tenant does not pay rent within five days, the landlord may continue with the eviction of the tenant. Landlords may accept partial payments of rent while continuing with the eviction process.
If the landlord is evicting the tenant for illegal drug activity or any other activity that may endanger other tenants, then the landlord can evict the tenant immediately.
Virginia Laws on Retaliation
Landlords cannot increase rent, decrease services, or threaten to evict the tenant because the because the tenant has done any of the following:
- Filed a complaint with a government agency that regulates building or health and safety codes
- Complained to the landlord
- Joined a tenant’s union
- Testified against the landlord
There is no statutory timeline for retaliation. A tenant that is a victim of retaliation from their landlord can sue their landlord for any cost or expenses incurred because of the landlord’s retaliation.
Victims of Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault
Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault have special privileges in Virginia. Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault may change the locks on their apartment or request that the landlord changes the locks on their apartment. Victims of domestic violence or assault may also terminate their lease early. For victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse to change locks on their apartment, they must have a court order that states that they are allowed change the locks.
In order to terminate the lease, the victim must have a restraining order or judgment against the abuser. The victim must give the landlord 30 days’ notice of his or her intention to terminate the lease. Anyone else under the lease would still be responsible for their portion of the lease.
Virginia Laws on Changing the Locks and Security Devices
Virginia does not require the landlord to change locks. However, based on a survey of our Virginia landlords revealed that the majority change the locks on their rental units after the tenant moves out.
Do you change the locks every time you have a new tenant?
Virginia Pet Laws
Whether pets are allowed on the rental property will be up to the landlord and what is in the rental agreement. However, landlords should know that federal law requires landlords to accommodate the tenant’s need for service animals.
Notice of Entry Laws in Virginia
Landlords must provide tenants with 24 hours’ notice for routine repairs. When repairs involve the application of insecticide or pesticide, the landlord must give the tenant at least 48 hours’ notice.
Landlords can access the rental unit with the tenant’s permission for repairs and to exhibit the unit to prospective buyers or tenants. The tenant cannot unreasonably deny the landlord access to the unit. In an emergency, the landlord does not need the tenant’s permission to access the unit.
Sublease and Assignment Provisions in Virginia
In Virginia, subleasing will be governed solely by what is in the rental agreement. However, if the lease states that the landlord must approve sublease, then the landlord must respond to the tenant within 10 days of the tenant’s request for the sublease.
Abandonment of Property Provisions in Virginia
When a rental unit is abandoned then the rental agreement is over. However, if the landlord does not know whether the unit is abandoned, the landlord must send notice to the tenant stating the that a response is needed within seven days stating that the tenant is still occupying the unit. If the tenant does not answer, then the unit is presumed to be abandoned.
Any property left in the rental unit after the tenant moved out is considered abandoned. Also, any pay or quit notice the landlord serves on the tenant must state that property left in the unit after moving out will be considered abandoned.
Landlords are likely to acquire sensitive information of tenants during the tenant’s occupancy. In Virginia, there are strict regulations as to when a tenant’s information may be shared with a third party. No landlord or managing agent shall release information about a tenant or prospective tenant to a third party unless:
- The tenant or prospective tenant has given prior written consent
- The information is a matter of public record as defined in § 2.2-3701
- The information is a summary of the tenant’s rent payment record, including the amount of the tenant’s periodic rent payment
- The information is a copy of a material noncompliance notice that has not been remedied or, termination notice given to the tenant and the tenant did not remain in the premises thereafter;
- The information is requested by a local, state, or federal law enforcement or public safety official in the performance of his or her duties
- The information is requested pursuant to a subpoena in a civil case
- The information is requested by a local Commissioner of the Revenue
- The information is requested by a contract purchaser of the landlord’s property, provided the contract purchaser agrees in writing to maintain the confidentiality of such information
- The information is requested by a lender of the landlord for financing or refinancing of the property
- The information is requested by the commanding officer, military housing officer, or military attorney of the tenant
- The third party is the landlord’s attorney or the landlord’s collection agency;
- The information is otherwise provided in the case of an emergency
- The information is requested by the landlord to be provided to the managing agent, or a successor to the managing agent
Landlords may use a property management service to manage their tenant’s information. In that case, the third party company would be liable for any unlawful release of customer information to another third party.
Required Virginia Rental Agreement Disclosures
Lead Paint: Landlords must disclose known presences of lead paint in the unit or common areas. The rental agreement must have a federally-approved attachment about lead poisoning prevention.
Mold: As part of the written report of the move-in inspection, the landlord must disclose whether there is any visible evidence of mold in areas readily accessible within the interior of the dwelling unit.
Production of Meth: If the landlord knows that rental unit was used to produce meth and the unit has not been cleaned, then the landlord must notify the tenant. If the landlord does not notify the tenant, the tenant may end the lease within 60 days of finding out that the unit was used to produce meth.
Military Air Installation: Landlords must notify the tenant if the rental property is near a military base and must state whether the property is located in a noise zone or accident potential zone, or both, as designated by the locality in its official zoning map.
If the landlord fails to notify tenant, the tenant may end the lease within the first month of occupancy.
Condominium Conversion Project: Landlords must disclose to tenants, in writing, whether the property will be converted to condos within six months.
Demolition: If the unit will be demolished or substantially rehabbed within the next six months, then the landlord must provide the tenant with written notice.
Sale of the Property: If the property has been sold, the landlord must provide the tenant with the name, phone number, and address of the purchaser.
Defective Drywall: If the landlord knows that the unit has defective drywall, he or she must notify the tenant. If the tenant is not notified, the tenant may end the lease within 60 days of discovery of defective drywall.
Defective drywall means drywall or similar building material composed of dried gypsum-based plaster that:
- Contains elemental sulfur exceeding 10 parts per million and when exposed to heat, humidity, or both, releases elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide gas into the air
- Has been designated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission as a product with a product defect that constitutes a substantial product hazard
Oft-Cited Virginia Landlord and Tenant Laws
Below you will find references to areas of the Virginia rules and regulations that govern rental properties and issues related to landlord-tenant law.
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- The landlord must give the tenant a copy of lease within 30 days of tenant signing the lease.
- The landlord cannot makes changes to the lease without notifying the tenant a receiving the tenant’s written approval.
- If the lease contains a clause requiring the landlord to approve a sublessee, the landlord must respond to the tenant’s request within 10 days.
- Within five days of the tenant moving out, the landlord must inspect the apartment for any damage caused by the tenant.
- If the landlord finds damage to the apartment that he or she plans to charge against the former tenant’s deposit, then the landlord must send the former tenant a written statement of damages.
- The security deposit cannot exceed the cost of two months of rent.
- Landlords can use security deposits to cover unpaid rent, unpaid utilities, damage to the unit, and any other reason stated in the lease.
- The landlord must return the former tenant’s security deposit within 45 days of the tenant moving out.
Resources for Virginia Landlord-Tenant Law
Below are links to additional helpful resources for understanding Virginia landlord-tenant.
This article is designed to convey information, and not to provide legal advice. You should not consider any information in this article to be legal advice. Readers should consider obtaining specific legal advice from an attorney about any decision or course of action contemplated.