Virginia Landlord Tenant Rights

Virginia Landlord Tenant Rights

Last Updated: January 12, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

According to Virginia law (Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act) if a tenant and landlord enter into a written or verbal lease agreement, they are granted special rights and responsibilities. Landlords have the right to evict if there are any lease violations and the right to collect rental payments on time.

Tenants have obtained the right to pursue housing without discrimination and report health and safety violations related to the rental property.

Note: These rights exist regardless of a rental agreement stating otherwise.

Questions? To chat with a Virginia landlord tenant attorney, click here

Landlord Responsibilities in Virginia

Virginia landlords are required to provide a habitable dwelling for tenants and make requested repairs within 30 days, if it is an immediate danger to the safety and health of the tenant, landlords must begin to correct the issue within 24 hours. If a landlord does not comply, a tenant may file a Tenant’s Assertation with the District Court and the court may deny or grant withholding rent.

Landlords are responsible for the following items in Virginia.

Item Landlord Responsibility?
Dwelling structures Yes
Electricity Yes
Plumbing/sanitation Yes
Heating and air conditioning Yes
Ventilation Yes
Water Yes
Smoke alarms Not addressed
Bed bugs Implied

Legal precedent says that Virginia landlords are not required to abide by an “implied” warranty of habitability.

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Tenant Responsibilities in Virginia

Aside from paying rent on time, Virginia tenants must:

  • Keep the premesis in a safe and hazard-free state.
  • Comply with all building and housing codes that materially affect health and safety.
  • Keep all plumbing fixtures clean.
  • Use all facilities, appliances, and utilities in a reasonable manner.
  • Promptly pay utility services.
  • Abide by cleanliness standards.
  • Maintain the premises by preventing any mold growth or an accumulation of moisture.
  • Remove garbage and trash.
  • Not deliberately or negligently destroy or damage any part of the property.
  • Not disturb neighbors or other tenants.
  • Not remove or tamper any functioning smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector.

Evictions in Virginia

Virginia landlords have relatively broad authority to evict tenants. The most common reasons for eviction are:

  1. Nonpayment of Rent – If a tenant does not rent by the specified date, then a landlord may issue a 5 Day Notice to Pay. If the tenant does not pay within the notice period, then the landlord may begin eviction proceedings.
  2. Violation of Lease Terms – If a tenant is violating the terms of the lease, then the landlord may issue a 30-Day Notice to Comply, giving the tenant 21 days to correct the issue or the lease will end within the 30-day notice period. If the violation cannot be cured, the landlord may provide a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
  3. No Lease/End of Lease – If the tenant remains on the premises after the lease term has expired, the landlord may issue a notice to quit. The amount of time required in the notice depends on the type of tenancy.
    • Week-to-Week – 7-Day Notice to Quit.
    • Month-to-Month – 30-Day Notice to Quit.
  4. Illegal Acts – If a landlord finds that a tenant is engaging in illegal acts, including criminal activity, illegal drug activity and violent acts that affect the health and safety of other residents, then they may immediately file an eviction suit with the court without any advanced notice.

Landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants as retaliation or for discriminatory reasons.

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Security Deposits in Virginia

  • Standard limit/Maximum amount – No more than 2 months’ rent.
  • Time limit for return – 30 days.
  • Penalty if not returned on time – If a Virginia landlord wrongfully withholds rent, then they may be required to turn over the deposit in addition to penalties for “actual damages” and the tenant’s legal fees.
  • Allowable deductions – Late rent payments, damages that exceed normal wear and tear, outstanding utility bills, administrative costs for new rental agreements.

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Lease Termination in Virginia

Notice requirement. Virginia tenants that have periodic leases must give the following amounts of notice when they wish to terminate their leases:

Rent Payment Frequency Notice Needed
Week-to-Week 30 Days
Month-to-Month 3 Months
Quarter-to-Quarter No statute
Year-to-Year No statute
Questions? To chat with a Virginia landlord tenant attorney, click here

Early termination. Virginia allows tenants to legally break a lease for the following reasons:

  1. Early termination clause in lease agreement.
  2. Active military duty.
  3. Uninhabitable unit.
  4. Violation of lease terms.
  5. Domestic violence.
  6. Failure to provide mandatory disclosures.

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Rent Increases & Related Fees in Virginia

  • Rent control & increases. Virginia law explicitly prohibits counties and local governments from passing ordinances that amount to rent control. Thus, Virginia landlords can charge as much as they want for rent.
  • Rent increases. Similarly, Virginia does not require landlords to provide justification or notice before raising rent, and there is no limit to how much they can increase.
  • Rental related fees. There is no explicit limitation on late fees but precedent shows that courts will likely strike down late fees if they are not included in the lease agreement. Precedent also indicates that late fees must be commensurate with the cost the landlord has incurred. There is a $50 limit on returned check fees.

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Housing Discrimination in Virginia

Protected groups. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, nationality, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. Virginia has extra protections for one other class. Virginia tenants cannot be evicted due to their age ,this class only applies to those over 55 years old.

Discriminatory Acts and Penalties. The Virginia Fair Housing Board handles the enforcement of housing discrimination laws. The following behaviors may be interpreted as discriminatory when directed at a member of a protected group:

  • Refusing to rent or sell on a bona fide offer
  • Lying about unit availability
  • Offering different terms, conditions, or privileges
  • Refusing to make reasonable accommodations
  • Persuading tenants to rent, buy, or sell based on perceptions about the future demographics of the neighborhood (blockbusting)

Virginia tenants who have been the victim of discrimination in housing may file a report to the Virginia Fair Housing Board. If the complaint of discrimination is deemed justified, then the tenant may use it as the basis for civil litigation.

Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Virginia

Landlord Right to Entry in Virginia

Landlords must provide 24-hours of advanced notice before entering a tenant’s dwelling for non-emergencies. Landlords do not have to give notice to enter during emergencies where the tenant’s safety or well-being is at risk.

Small Claims Court

Virginia’s small claims court will hear rent-related disputes valued at $5,000 or more. The statute of limitations on rent-related cases is 5 years if there were a written lease and 3 years if there was not a written lease.

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Mandatory Disclosures

Virginia landlords are required to make the following disclosures:

  1. Lead-Based Paint– For homes built prior to 1978, landlords must provide info about the concentrations of lead paint.
  2. Move-In Checklist – Landlords must provide tenants with a move-in checklist that outlines the rentals inventory and condition of the property.
  3. Authorized Agents – Tenants are entitled to receive the names and addresses of all parties involved in owning and managing the property.
  4. Location Adjacent to Military Institution – Landlords must indicate that their home near a military institution may be in a “noise zone” or an “accident potential zone.”
  5. Defective Drywall – Landlords must tell tenants if any parts of the drywall are defective.
  6. Methamphetamine Manufacturing – Landlords must disclose if they have actual knowledge that their property has been used in the past for manufacturing methamphetamine.
  7. Mold – Virginia landlords must disclose if a property contains mold before occupancy. Tenants may dispute this disclosure in the first five days of the lease agreement.
  8. Shared Utilities – Landlords must disclose how utilities are split between multiple tenants and common areas.
  9. Demolition or Displacement – This disclosure is applicable to any multifamily dwelling unit where tenants will be displaced within six months from scheduled demolition, rehabilitation, or conversion of the property.

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Changing the Locks in Virginia

Virginia law prohibits “lockouts” but is otherwise silent on changing locks. Tenants may be able to change locks if the lease agreement allows for it, though it is recommended that they get permission before doing so.

Local Laws in Virginia

Virginia Beach Landlord Tenant Rights

The city of Virginia beach prohibits housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Chesapeake Landlord Tenant Rights

The city of Chesapeake has stricter housing inspection codes for properties in the city limits, including the presence of smoke detectors, accessibility features, and more.

Alexandria Landlord Tenant Rights

The city of Alexandria prohibits housing discrimination in the city limits on the bases of sexual orientation.

In addition to the above, check with your local country or municipality for extra landlord-tenant rules and regulations.

Questions? To chat with a Virginia landlord tenant attorney, click here