Timeline. Evicting a tenant in Virginia can take around two to four months depending on the type of eviction being filed. If tenants request a jury trial, the process can take even longer (read more).
Introduction. There are many legal reasons why a landlord might want to evict a tenant. In Virginia, a landlord must file an eviction lawsuit and receive a court order before physically evicting a tenant. Below are the individual steps of the eviction process in Virginia.
Step 1: Notice is Posted
Landlords in Virginia can begin the eviction process for several reasons, including:
- Nonpayment of Rent – Once rent is past due, written notice must be served giving the tenant the option to pay rent to avoid eviction.
- Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement – If a tenant violates a provision of a written lease/rental agreement, the eviction notice must specify if the violation can be “cured” (corrected).
- No Lease / End of Lease Term (Tenant at Will) – If there is no lease or the term of the lease has ended, the landlord does not need any additional reason to end the tenancy if proper notice is given.
- Illegal Activity – If a tenant is engaged in illegal activity, the landlord is not required to provide written notice before pursuing eviction proceedings.
- Retaliatory Evictions. It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for complaining to the landlord or to the appropriate local or government agency regarding the property. It is also illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for joining or organizing a tenant organization or union.
- Evicting a Squatter. If the individual occupying the property did not have the permission of the landlord when moving in, has no lease or verbal agreement, and no history of paying rent, then they may be considered a “tenant at sufferance” or trespasser under Virginia law and the eviction process outlined below may not apply (read more).
- Service of Notice. The landlord may serve notice to the tenant at the tenant’s last known address or at the tenant’s place of business. If the lease agreement provides, the landlord may send the tenant an electronic notice. It is important to note that the tenant has the right to request any notice in paper form. Sheriff’s may deliver notice on behalf on the landlord for a service fee of $12 or less.
Each possible ground for eviction has its own rules for how the process starts.
Eviction Process for Nonpayment of Rent
A landlord is allowed to evict a tenant for failing to pay rent on time.
For tenancies in which there is no written rental agreement, rent is due on the first day of the month, and is considered late if not paid by the fifth day of the month. Late fees may be assessed if rent is paid after the fifth day of the month.
For tenancies with written rental agreements, the rent due dates, grace periods, and late fees (if any) are addressed in the written agreement.
Once rent is past due, the landlord must provide a 5-Day Notice to Pay if the landlord wants to file an eviction action with the court. This notice gives the tenant the option to pay the past due amount in full within five days to avoid eviction.
If the tenant does not pay the rent due by the end of the notice period and remains on the property, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Eviction Process for Violation of Lease Terms / Rental Agreement
A tenant can be evicted in Virginia if they do not uphold their responsibilities under the terms of a written lease or rental agreement.
Virginia landlords have two options when it comes to lease violations.
For curable, or correctable, violations, landlords are required to provide tenants with a 30-Day Notice to Comply, giving tenants 21 days to correct the issue or the lease agreement will end within 30 days.
Typical lease violations under this category could include things like damaging the rental property, having too many people residing in the rental unit, having a pet when there’s a no-pet policy, and correctable health/safety violations.
For violations that cannot be corrected, landlords must provide tenants with a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
If the tenant hasn’t corrected the issue and remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Eviction Process for No Lease / End of Lease
In the state of Virginia, if tenants “hold over,” or stay in the rental unit after the rental term has expired, then the landlord must give tenants notice before evicting them. This can include tenants without a written lease and week-to-week and month-to-month tenants.
Often this type of eviction applies to tenants who are at the end of their lease and the landlord doesn’t want to renew.
The amount of time required in the notice depends on the type of tenancy:
- Week-to-Week – If rent is paid on a week-to-week basis, the landlord must provide the tenant with a 7-Day Notice to Quit.
- Month-to-Month – If rent is paid on a month-to-month basis, a landlord must provide the tenant with a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Eviction Process for Illegal Activity
Landlords are not required to give tenants who are involved in illegal activity any prior written notice before proceeding with an eviction action.
Illegal activity includes:
- Criminal activity;
- Illegal drug activity; and
- Violent acts that affect the health or safety of other residents.
Tenants don’t have the option to correct the issue to avoid eviction.
Landlords may proceed directly to Step 2 below, without giving the tenant any prior written notice.
Step 2: Complaint is Filed and Served
As the next step in the eviction process, Virginia landlords must file a complaint in the appropriate circuit or District Court. In the Arlington Circuit Court, this costs $151 in filing fees.
The summons and complaint must be served on the tenant by a sheriff, professional process server, or anyone over the age of 18 not part of the case, at least 10 days prior to the hearing.
The summons and complaint may be served via one of the following methods:
- Giving a copy to the tenant in person;
- Leaving a copy with the tenant’s family member who is 16 years or older;
- By posting a copy at the rental unit AND mailing a copy to the tenant; or
- By publication (court-order only).
10 days. The summons and complaint must be served on the tenant at least 10 days prior to the hearing.
Step 3: Court Hearing and Judgment
The eviction hearing must be set no later than 21-30 days after the summons and complaint are filed with the court.
However, if either the landlord or tenant requests a jury trial, this will add more time to the process.
If the tenant fails to appear for the hearing, the judicial officer may rule in favor of the landlord.
If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, a writ of eviction will be issued and the eviction process will proceed.
21-30 days. The hearing must be held no later than 21 to 30 days after the summons and complaint are filed with the court.
Step 4: Writ of Eviction Is Issued
The writ of eviction is the tenant’s final notice to leave the rental unit, and must be requested by the landlord.
It may be issued as soon as 10 days after the date the judgment was entered in favor of the landlord; but if the writ of eviction is not requested within 180 days, the landlord will need to begin the eviction process all over again.
10 days. The writ of eviction can be issued 10 days after the date the court rules in the landlord’s favor; but it must be requested within 180 days at the very latest.
Step 5: Possession of Property is Returned
Within 15-30 days of receiving the writ of eviction, the sheriff or constable must deliver the writ to the tenant or post the writ on the rental property if the tenant cannot be found.
Once the writ has been delivered or posted, the tenant will then have 72 hours to move out of the rental unit before the sheriff or constable returns to forcibly evict them.
18-33 days. The sheriff must deliver the writ within 15-30 days of receiving it, and tenants will have 72 hours once the writ of eviction has been delivered/posted to move out of the rental unit.
Virginia Eviction Process Timeline
Below is a summary of the aspects outside of the landlord’s control that dictate the amount of time it takes to evict a tenant in Virginia. These estimates can vary greatly, and some time periods may not include weekends or legal holidays.
- Initial Notice Period – Between 5 and 30 days, depending on the notice type and reason for eviction.
- Issuance/Service of Summons and Complaint – 10 days prior to the hearing.
- Court Hearing and Ruling on the Eviction – Within 21-30 days of when the summons and complaint were filed.
- Issuance of Writ of Possession – 10 days after the judgment is issued.
- Return of Possession – 18-33 days; the sheriff has 15-30 days to deliver the writ, and the tenant has 72 hours to move out after the writ of eviction is posted.
Tenant’s Defenses. A tenant may have a legal reason to delay or dismiss the eviction. Common defenses include:
- The landlord removes the tenant without a court order.
- The landlord changes the locks on the rental unit or shuts off essential utilities.
- The landlord did not follow state and local laws.
- The landlord retaliates against the tenant.
- The landlord terminates a tenancy because the tenant is a victim of family abuse.
- The tenant remedied the lease violation.
- The landlord did not maintain the rental unit to a habitable condition.
- The landlord discriminates against the tenant based on religion, race, sex, familial status, age or disability.
Flowchart of Virginia Eviction Process
For additional questions about the eviction process in Virginia, please refer to the official state legislation, VA Code §§ 55.1-1200 through 55.1-1262, §§8.01-124 through 8.01-130, §8.01-293, §8.01-296, §8.01-470, and §8.01-471, for more information.
- 1 VA Code §55.1-1204 (2019)
- 2 VA Code §55.1-1245 (2019)
- 3 VA Code §55.1-1245 (2019)
- 4 VA Code §55.1-1245 (2019)
- 5 VA Code §55.1-1253 (2019)
- 6 VA Code §55.1-1245 (2019)
- 7 VA Code §8.01-293 (2019)
- 8 VA Code §8.01-126 (2019)
- 9 VA Code §8.01-296 (2019)
- 10 VA Code §8.01-129 (2019)
- 11 VA Code §8.01-471 (2019)
- 12 VA Code §8.01-470 (2019)
- 13 VA Code §8.01-470 (2019)