Landlord/Tenant laws in Virginia have changed many times since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, placing limitations and additional requirements on Landlords which are still difficult to navigate and interpret. Since these new laws have taken effect, our team has been working to stay up to date with them and advise landlords on how to move forward.

It All Starts with a Well-Written Lease

If you are a landlord offering a residential property to rent, then there are certain situations in which you are required to provide your tenant with a written lease, such as if the lease term is for more than a year or if you are renting a manufactured/mobile home lot (trailer park).

Even if your rental agreement is not one that must be in writing, you should still provide your tenant with a written lease to protect your interests and to ensure that the terms or rules you want each side to abide by are laid out and enforceable.

When a lease is not in writing, the lease can be difficult for the Landlord to enforce, and the parties are bound by the general terms listed in the Code of Virginia. For example, the Virginia Landlord and Residential Tenant Act provides that when a rental agreement is not in writing, “The duration of the rental agreement shall be for 12 months and shall not be subject to automatic renewal, except in the event of a month-to-month lease as otherwise provided for under subsection C of § 55.1-1253.” Therefore, if you want certain provisions to be in place that are different or more specific than those outlined in the Code, such as the lease term being a month-to-month or an automatically renewing annual lease, then you need to having it in writing.

 Written rental agreements protect the parties by outlining certain provisions such as:

·         The beginning and end date of the lease, and if and how the term will renew

·         The names of the parties and the address of the property to be rented

·         The amount of rent to be paid and the due date

·         Which parties are responsible for different types of maintenance

·         How and where notices are to be sent

The best way to ensure that your interests are protected in your lease is to have an attorney draft your lease or rental agreement. If you need a lease or rental agreement drafted, contact our office and we will be happy to help.

Notices and the Eviction Process

Make Sure Your Notice is Sufficient.

If you want your tenant to leave your rental property, pay overdue rent, or remedy a breach in the lease, then you must first send the proper notice. If the notice is missing a provision, the judge may not grant you possession or the monetary judgment you are seeking. If your tenant breaches their lease or rental agreement, our office can help you determine which notice applies in your case and draft the notices for you, including, but not limited to, Five-Day Pay or Quit notices and 21-Day Notices to Cure or Quit.

What is Acceptance of Rent with Reservation and Right of Redemption?

If a tenant owes you rent, and you accept partial payment of that rent, you may be prevented from moving forward with gaining possession of the property and evicting the tenant for nonpayment of rent unless you provide written notice of your right to accept rent with reservation. This notice must be written using specific language outlined in the Code of Virginia. On the other hand, if the unlawful detainer or eviction is based only on nonpayment of rent, and the tenant pays the rent owed and any other amounts provided in the unlawful detainer (late fees, attorney fees, costs, etc.) at least 48 hours prior to the time of the eviction, then the eviction cannot take place.

What is an Unlawful Detainer?

If the tenant will not pay rent, fix the breach, or leave the property after you have sent the proper notice and the grace period has expired, then the next step is a court proceeding. The first step in evicting someone through a court proceeding is for you or your representative to file a Summons for Unlawful Detainer with the court. The court will then schedule a court date where you can present evidence to the Judge and argue your case about why you should be entitled to possession of the property. Our office can help you with these court proceedings, from filing the Summons for Unlawful Detainer and any necessary pleadings to arguing your case and presenting evidence in court.

What is a Writ of Eviction?

If the Judge rules in your favor at the unlawful detainer hearing, you will ordinarily be granted possession and granted a judgment for the money that the tenant owes you. After a ten-day waiting period, if the tenant still has not left the property, then you, your representative or attorney can file a Writ of Eviction with the court. When a Writ of Eviction is filed, the Sheriff’s Office is notified, and they will schedule a date for the eviction. The eviction date will be at least 72 hours from the date the notice of the eviction is given, and on the date of the eviction, the deputy will be present at the eviction to supervise and keep the peace.