Virginia Habitability Laws

Last Updated: June 27, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

In Virginia, a landlord’s obligation for providing a habitable living space is primarily governed by Virg. Code § 55-225.3. This legal requirement, commonly known as the “implied warranty of habitability”, also outlines the rights of tenants when repairs are not made in a timely manner.

Quick Facts Answer
Landlord Responsibilities Cold/Hot Water, HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Gas, Sanitation Facilities, Trash Can
Time Limit for Repairs 24 Hours or 30 Days
Tenant Recourse Options
  • Withhold Rent: No, but a tenant may file a Tenant’s Assertation with the Court
  • Repair & Deduct: No
  • Substitute Housing: Yes, if the landlord fails to provide essential services.

Applicable Dwelling Types in Virginia

The implied warranty of habitability in Virginia does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are and 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 Not specifically addressed
Condos No
Hotels/Motels Yes, if person resides in hotel/motel for more than 90 consecutive days
Questions? To chat with a Virginia landlord tenant attorney, Click here

Landlord Responsibilities in Virginia

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 Not addressed
Provide a mailbox. Not addressed
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack. Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances. Not addressed
Provide working carbon monoxide detector. Not addressed
Provide a working washer/dryer. No

Landlords in Virginia must make all necessary repairs and must follow all building and housing codes affecting safety and health. Landlords must also keep the common areas in a safe and clean condition. In some instances, a landlord and tenant may agree, in writing, that the tenant can perform the following duties:

  • Maintain the premises to prevent the accumulation of mold growth and moisture.
  • Maintain receptables for trash.
  • Supply heat, water, hot water, and air conditioning (if applicable).

Security

For multi-family rental properties with five or more units, landlords are required to provide dead-bolt locks, sliding glass door locks, peepholes and window locks for all exterior doors and windows.

Mold

A landlord is responsible to maintain the premises so that the dwelling unit does not accumulate mold or moisture.  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.

Tenant’s Right to Repairs in Virginia

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 30 days to make any necessary repairs after receiving written notice. If the habitability issue is an immediate danger to the safety and health of the tenant, a landlord is required to correct the issue in 24 hours.
  • Landlord Access – Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to make necessary repairs during reasonable hours.  However, a landlord must give tenants 24 hours’ notice unless it’s an emergency.
Questions? To chat with a Virginia landlord tenant attorney, Click here

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

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, in Virginia a tenant may bring a copy of the written notice and the next months’ rent to the General District Court and file a Tenant’s Assertation. They may only proceed with this remedy if the following are complied with:
    • The tenant must be current on rent payments.
    • The tenant provided the landlord with the notice of the issue.
    • The landlord failed to rectify the issue within a reasonable time.
  2. Repair and Deduct – Virginia tenants are not allowed to pay for the repairs and then deduct the cost from their rent later.
  3. Substitute Housing– If the landlord fails to provide essential services, the tenant may seek substitute housing and does not need to pay rent during the time of the landlord’s noncompliance. If there is mold in the dwelling unit and it requires remediation, the landlord must provide the tenant with comparable housing and the tenant must continue to pay rent.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Landlord Retaliation in Virginia

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.
  • Testified in a court proceeding against the landlord.

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