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.
Landlord Responsibilities in Virginia
Virginia landlords are required to provide a habitable dwelling for tenants and make requested repairs in a “reasonable” timely manner, although the law does not specify an exact timeframe. Virginia does not currently allow tenants to take any form of alternate action, though in limited cases, they may be allowed to put rent in a special escrow account if the landlord has received a notice of violation of the warrant of habitability.
Landlords are responsible for the following items in Virginia:
|Heating and air conditioning||Yes|
Legal precedent says that Virginia landlords are not required to abide by an “implied” warranty of habitability.
Tenant Responsibilities in Virginia
Aside from paying rent on time, Virginia tenants must:
- Keep the house in a safe and hazard-free state
- Abide by cleanliness standards
- Remove garbage and trash
- Not disturb neighbors or other tenants
Evictions in Virginia
Virginia landlords have relatively broad authority to evict tenants. The most common reasons for eviction are:
- Nonpayment of rent – If a tenant does not rent by the specified date, then a landlord may issue a 5 Day Notice to Pay or Quit. If the tenant does not pay within that time game, then the landlord may begin eviction proceedings.
- Violation of lease terms – If a tenant is violating the terms of the lease, then the landlord may issue a 30-Day Notice to Cure or Quit. If a tenant has received a previous notice about the same violation, then landlords are not required to give any chance to cure their behavior.
- Illegal Acts – If a landlord finds that a tenant is engaging in illegal acts, then they may immediately start evictions without any advanced notice. Virginia law may allow landlords to evict tenants for any illegal acts, even those not committed on the property.
At-will tenants that do not have a fixed end date agreement are entitled to 30 days of advanced notice to move out. At-will tenants that have a fixed end date cannot be evicted without cause.
Landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants as retaliation or for discriminatory reasons.
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.
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|
Early termination. Virginia allows tenants to legally break a lease for the following reasons:
- Early termination clause in lease agreement
- Active military duty
- Uninhabitable unit
- Violation of lease terms
- Domestic violence
- Failure to provide mandatory disclosures
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.
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 “elderness.” 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.
Virginia landlords are required to make the following 5 disclosures:
- Lead-based paint. For homes built prior to 1978, landlords must provide info about the concentrations of lead paint.
- Authorized agents. Tenants are entitled to receive the names and addresses of all parties involved in owning and managing the property.
- 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.”
- Defective Drywall. Landlords must tell tenants if any parts of the drywall are defective.
- Methamphetamine Manufacturing. Landlords must disclose if they have actual knowledge that their property has been used in the past for manufacturing methamphetamine.
- Mold. Virginia landlords must disclose if a property contains mold before occupancy. Tenants may dispute this disclosure in the first 5 days of the lease agreement.
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.