Virginia Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Virginia Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Last Updated: August 17, 2023

In general, a landlord in Virginia has to repair any issues at a rental property that could affect a tenant’s health or safety. The landlord must repair issues the tenant didn’t cause within 14-21 days of getting written notice from the tenant about the needed repairs, depending on the type of issue.

Virginia Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs

Virginia landlords are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:

  • Plumbing.
  • Required utilities.
  • Heating.
  • Hot running water.
  • Garbage containers and removal.
  • Required smoke alarms and provided carbon monoxide (CO) detectors.
  • Provided appliances.
  • Common areas.
  • Features that affect health, safety, or habitability.

If any of the above stops working properly, and the tenant isn’t at fault for the damage, the landlord is the one responsible for making the repairs necessary to fix it.

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What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Virginia?

Virginia tenants are responsible for repairing any damage they cause to the property which affects health and safety.

On a case by case basis, the landlord and tenant can agree in writing for the tenant to handle specific maintenance. This can include the tenant taking on the landlord’s responsibilities for common areas, garbage, water, heating.

Requesting Repairs in Virginia

Virginia tenants must request repairs by providing the landlord written notice about the issue that needs repair. To reserve the relevant legal options, the tenant must also state actions they might take if the landlord does not make timely repairs, such as canceling the lease altogether.

This is an example of language a tenant might use when potentially canceling the lease: “If the issue isn’t fixed within 21 days of this notice being delivered, the renter may exercise his right to cancel the rental agreement on [DATE, at least 30 days from delivery of the notice].

This is an example of language a tenant might use when potentially repairing and deducting: “If the issue isn’t fixed within 14 days of this notice being delivered, the renter may exercise his right to repair and deduct.

How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in Virginia?

Virginia landlords have 21 days to make most repairs after getting proper written notice about an issue from the tenant. When there’s a fire hazard or serious threat to health and safety, landlords have 14 days to do repairs after written notice, or else the renter can repair and deduct.

Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Virginia?

Virginia landlords cannot refuse to make repairs that are their legal responsibility.

Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in Virginia?

Virginia landlords must pay for alternative accommodation while they conduct repairs if the tenant has to relocate temporarily. The landlord usually must give 30 days’ written notice. The tenant still has to pay rent as usual, but the landlord has to provide the alternative accommodation at no charge.

Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Virginia

Virginia tenants can cancel the rental agreement if the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs, in many situations. They might also sue for damages or get an injunction to force repairs, or repair and deduct for minor repairs.

Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Virginia?

Virginia tenants are not allowed to unilaterally withhold rent. A court may order a tenant to pay into a court escrow account rather than directly to the landlord, but tenants aren’t allowed to suspend rent payments.

Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in Virginia?

Virginia tenants can repair and deduct, when fire hazards or serious health and safety issues aren’t fixed within 14 days after written notice. The deductible amount is $1,500 or one month’s rent, whichever is greater. The tenant must provide the landlord an itemized statement with receipts to prove expenses.

Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Virginia?

Virginia tenants can break their lease 21 after written notice, for failure to repair issues that weren’t the tenant’s responsibility or other uncorrected breaches of the rental agreement.

Tenants can move out and break their lease immediately, when the property is destroyed or severely damaged by an action that wasn’t the tenant’s fault (for example, a hurricane).

Can the Tenant Sue in Virginia?

Virginia tenants can sue to force repairs or recover monetary damages, when the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs after proper notice.

Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Virginia?

Virginia tenants can report landlords for code violations that affect health or safety. Tenants should usually report to the local inspections or code enforcement department. If an inspecting officer finds a violation, the tenant could cancel the rental agreement, or sue to force repairs.

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Landlord Retaliation in Virginia

It’s illegal for Virginia landlords to retaliate with raised rent, reduced services, or threatened eviction against tenants who have taken one of the following protected actions:

  • Complaining to the government about health and safety issues on the property.
  • Complaining to the landlord about failure to comply with legal requirements.
  • Participating in a tenant organization.
  • Testifying in a court case against the landlord.

The law allows an exception when the landlord has good-faith reason for the alleged retaliatory action. For example, a landlord who raises rent reasonably according to local market values isn’t retaliating. It’s the tenant’s burden of proof to establish the landlord’s retaliatory intention.

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