Virginia Security Deposit Returns & Deductions

Virginia Security Deposit Returns & Deductions

Last Updated: January 11, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Acceptable Deductions
  • Unpaid rent and late fees
  • Costs of damage
  • Damages due to early termination
  • Charges outlined in the lease
Return Deadline 45 days
Itemized Deductions Required
Penalty for Late Return Amount due + damages + attorneys’ fees

For laws on security deposit collections and holdings in Virginia, click here.

Security Deposit Deductions in Virginia

In Virginia, the following things can be deducted from security deposits:

  • Unpaid rent and late fees
  • Costs of damage excluding normal wear and tear
  • Damages as a result of early termination of the lease
  • Charges outlined in the lease

Most states, such as Virginia, do not have a legal limit on how much a landlord can charge for damages except that the charges must be reasonable.

If the cost of the damages exceeds the amount of the security deposit, landlords are entitled to seek additional damages from the former tenant.

What is Considered Normal Wear & Tear vs Damage in Virginia?

Normal wear and tear is damage that is expected when a rental unit is used in a normal way, such as gently worn carpets and faded walls. Damage is the destruction caused by abusive or negligent use of a rental unit, like ripped carpets and heavily stained walls.

“Normal wear and tear” is deterioration that occurs naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it was designed to be used.

Examples include:

  • Gently worn carpets
  • Lightly scratched glass
  • Faded paint and flooring
  • Lightly dirtied grout
  • Loose door handles
  • Stained bath fixtures

“Damage” means destruction to the rental unit that occurs because of abuse or negligence by a tenant during the course of the tenancy.

Examples include:

  • Heavily stained, burned, or torn carpets
  • Broken tiles or windows
  • Holes in the wall
  • Missing fixtures

Can the Landlord Charge for Replacing the Carpet in Virginia?

Yes, landlords can charge for replacing the carpet if it is damaged beyond normal wear and tear.

Some wear and tear on a rental unit’s carpet is expected after normal day-to-day use of the property. For example, carpets typically become discolored, indented, or gently worn, when used in a normal way. However, non-typical, abusive use of carpet results in rips, visible stains, or burns. Landlords have the right to charge the tenant for the replacement of the carpet in areas where serious damage has occurred.

Can the Landlord Charge for Nail Holes in Virginia?

Yes, landlords can charge a tenant for nail holes if they damage the walls in a way that is not a result of ordinary enjoyment of the rental unit.

Tenants have the right to use the walls within their unit in a reasonable way. This includes inserting small nails or thumbtacks to hang posters or pictures. However, large holes from drilling, multiple nail holes, large nail holes, and holes made for hanging heavier things may be considered damage and thus, chargeable to the tenant.

Can the Landlord Charge a Cleaning Fee in Virginia?

Landlords in Virginia can charge a cleaning fee if it is specifically stated in the lease agreement and the fee is reasonable.

If there is no cleaning fee mentioned in the lease agreement, the landlord can only charge the tenant if they cause damage that requires cleaning (e.g. wine stains on the carpet).

Can the Landlord Charge for Painting in Virginia?

Yes, in Virginia, landlords can charge for painting, except for normal wear and tear. For example, if the tenant:

  • Causes damage beyond normal wear and tear
  • Repaints the wall but is not permitted to do so under the lease agreement
  • Repaints the wall in an unprofessional way

Normal wear includes minor scrapes from daily use, fading due to sunlight, or minor cracks in the original paint. Landlords can charge for repainting if the damage is not the result of normal use. This includes stains, large or deep scratches, and water damage.

Can a Security Deposit Be Used for Last Month’s Rent in Virginia?

Virginia law does not forbid the security deposit from being used for any outstanding rent.

Landlords can include a provision in the lease agreement that the security deposit cannot be used for the last month’s rent until the tenant vacates the rental unit.

Security Deposit Returns in Virginia

Within 5 days after the tenant’s notice to vacate (or the landlord’s request to vacate) the landlord must notify the tenant in writing of their right to attend the final inspection. Landlords must return a security depositwithin 45 days from the last day of the lease or the date the tenant vacates the unit, whichever is later.

Any deductions must be included on an itemized statement.

How Long Do Landlords Have to Return Security Deposits in Virginia?

Virginia landlords have 45 days  after the lease ends or the tenant vacates the rental unit (whichever is later) to return a security deposit.

Landlords may include a provision in the lease agreement that tenants may request an expedited return of the security deposit in writing and by paying an administrative fee.

Do Landlords Owe Interest on Security Deposits in Virginia?

No, Virginia law does not require landlords to provide interest on held security deposits.

How Do Landlords Give Notice / What Information Do They Have to Provide in Virginia?

Landlords in Virginia are required to send the following notices when returning a security deposit:

  • Within 5 days – Notice of right to attend final inspection
  • Within 45 days – Return of security deposit including itemized list of deductions

Notice of right to attend final inspection. Within 5 days after the tenant’s notice of intent to vacate, the landlord must send written notice to the tenant of their right to attend the final inspection.

If the tenant requests (in writing) to be present at the inspection, the landlord must send another written notice of the date and time of the inspection, which must occur within 72 hours of delivery of possession.

Return of security deposit. Within 45 days after the lease ends or the tenant vacates the rental unit (whichever is later), the landlord must return the security deposit. If deductions are to be made from the security deposit, an itemized statement of deductions must be included.

Any notice required by this section can be sent by regular mail, hand delivery,  or email (if the lease allows electronic communication) to the tenant’s last known address. If there are multiple tenants on the lease, the landlord can return the security deposit as one check delivered to one tenant (unless otherwise agreed in the lease).

Deductions during the lease term. If the landlord makes deductions from the security deposit during the tenancy, they must send written notice within 30 days of discovering the deduction (unless the deduction occurs within 30 days of the end of the lease term). The written notice must include an itemized statement of the deduction.

Security Deposit Disputes in Virginia

If landlords do not return the security deposit within the required 45-day period, tenants can file a claim in court for the amount of the deposit wrongfully withheld plus actual damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Tenants can also take legal action against a landlord for:

  • Failure to provide written notice that lists deductions if the security deposit is not returned in full
  • Failure to provide the option to attend the final inspection
  • Unreasonable deductions

How Can Tenants File a Dispute for a Security Deposit in Virginia?

If a landlord fails to perform their obligations regarding a security deposit, the tenant can file a dispute in the small claims division of the General District Court if the amount of damages is less than $5,000. If the amount is greater, the tenant must file a civil case in the General District Court.

A small claims case regarding the return of a security deposit must be filed within 3 to 5 years depending on whether the lease agreement was oral or written.

Cases are filed in any General District Court that is convenient for the parties, like where the property is located or where the defendant lives.An attorney is not required or permitted.Filing fees vary depending on the court.

Our website provides more information about the process of filing a dispute in Small Claims Court.

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