Virginia Habitability Laws

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. All plumbing, electrical, sanitation facilities, smoke detectors, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning must be kept in good repair (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make and pay for repairs for items under their responsibility. They must do so within 21 days after receiving a written request from tenants (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, tenants cannot withhold rent or repair and deduct,  but they can report the issue to a public official or file a lawsuit (read more).
  • Retaliation. Retaliation against tenants for requesting repairs that affect habitability is illegal under Virginia law. (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in Virginia does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are & aren’t included.

Dwelling Type Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single-family Yes
Multi-family Yes
Fraternities/Sororities/Clubs No
RV parks Not specifically addressed
Mobile home parks Yes
Condos Yes
Hotels/Motels Yes, if person resides in hotel/motel for more than 90 consecutive days

Landlord Responsibilities

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in Virginia, as indicated below.

Note: some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability Issue Landlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair. Not addressed
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks. Not addressed
Provide hot and cold running water. Yes
Provide working HVAC equipment. Yes
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting. Yes
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cooking Not addressed
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet). Yes
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services). Yes
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe. Not addressed
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe. Not addressed
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean. Not addressed
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials. Not addressed
Provide working smoke detectors Yes
Provide a mailbox. Not addressed
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack. Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances. No
Provide working carbon monoxide detector. Not addressed
Provide a working washer/dryer. No

Security

For multi-family rental properties with five or more units, landlords are required to provide locks for all exterior doors and windows.

Mold

When there are visible signs of mold in the rental unit, the landlord is required to promptly remediate the same in accordance with professional standards. Also, the landlord is required to provide the tenant with a full and accurate record of all mold remediation and related procedures in the unit during the latter’s tenancy.

However, when mold has been fully remediated, the landlord is not required to disclose past incidents of mold remediation to subsequent tenants. This means that any tenant will be entitled to information on mold related incidents that occurred prior to that specific tenancy only if the same has not been fully remediated.

Making Repairs

Landlords are required to make and pay for any repairs to make the unit livable that are not caused by the tenant.

  • Sending notice. If a tenant request repairs, they must put their request in writing to the landlord. The landlord will then have 21 days to make any necessary repairs after receiving written notice.
  • Landlord access. Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to make necessary repairs.  However, a landlord must give tenants 24 hours’ notice unless it’s an emergency.

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold rent – Under Virginia law, withholding rent is not technically a remedy afforded to the tenant. However, tenants are allowed to use the landlord’s failure to rectify habitability issues as a defense in an eviction case for non-payment of rent. They may do so only if the following are complied with:
    • The tenant provided the landlord with the notice of the issue;
    • The landlord failed to rectify the issue within a reasonable time;
    • The tenants informed the landlord that they will not be paying rent due to the latter’s failure to rectify the issue; and
    • The tenants have deposited the rent not paid to the landlord with the court.
  2. Repair and deduct – Virginia tenants are not allowed to pay for the repairs and then deduct the cost from their rent later.
  3. Lawsuit – tenants may sue the landlord for damages from habitability issues. Also, the tenant may be entitled to costs of suit and reasonable attorney’s fees.
  4. Reporting to Public Officials – landlords can be reported on a city or county level to housing inspectors if they are found to be in violation of any local housing codes.
  5.  Termination of the lease – tenants can choose to terminate the lease if the landlord does not or fails to rectify habitability issues. To do this, the tenant must send the landlord a notice that says that the tenant is terminating the tenancy 30 days from the notice unless the landlord remedies the issue within 21 days from the same.

Landlord Retaliation

The landlord is prohibited from performing retaliatory acts such as increasing the rent, decreasing the services, evicting (or threatening to evict) the tenant or terminating the lease because the tenant did any of the following:

  • reported the landlord for violation of codes affecting health and safety;
  • complained of the landlord’s failure to properly maintain the unit;
  • joined a tenant’s union or similar organization; or
  • or testified in a court proceeding against the landlord.

Sources