Generally speaking, a Virginia residential landlord will want to resolve any outstanding issues with the tenant personally. However, that may not always work. A tenant eviction may be the last resort. It's important to handle the eviction process in Virginia properly to avoid an unfortunate squatting situation.
Virginia, just like other states, spells out the procedure landlords must follow when evicting tenants. It’s paramount that you understand the eviction process in Virginia according and follow the right process. Fail to do so, and you may find yourself in legal hot water.
In today’s article, we’re going to take you from A to Z of the eviction process in Virginia.
Virginia Eviction Timeline
1. Serving the Eviction Notice
To start the eviction process, landlords must serve the tenant with an eviction notice. The eviction notice is relative to the violation committed.
Nonpayment of Rent
For nonpayment of rent, you must serve the tenant with a 5-Day Notice to Pay. Typically, rents fall due on the 1st of every month and become late on the 5th.
So, if you want to file an eviction action against the tenant in court, you must serve the written notice when the rent has fallen due.
The 5-Day Notice to Pay gives the tenant two options: to pay the due rent or move out. If the tenant pays, great! You then stop further eviction process. However, if they choose not to pay or move out, you can proceed with the eviction.
Another common reason for tenant eviction is a lease or rental agreement violation. The written notice to serve depends on whether the rental agreement violation is curable or not.
If the rental agreement violation is curable, you must serve the tenant with a 30-Day Notice to Comply. This gives the tenant 21 days to comply or else they face eviction.
Examples of curable lease agreement violations include negligent rental property damage, having a pet when it’s against the rules, and having too many people residing on the rental property. If a tenant corrects the rental agreement violation, you must stop further action.
For non-curable violations, you must serve the tenant with a 30-Day Notice to Quit. This doesn’t give the tenant any other option than to pack up and leave.
Again, if they choose to stay, you can move to court and file for their forcible removal.
A holdover tenant is one that continues to stay in the rental unit after their lease has expired. More often than not, this notice applies to tenants who’re at the end of their lease and the landlord wants them to move out of the rental unit.
The notice period to give them depends on the tenancy type. If week-to-week, you must serve them a 7-Day Notice to Quit. If month-to-month, then you must serve them a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
Of course, if the tenant remains adamant, you can move to court to have them evicted.
If a tenant has committed a criminal activity or an illegal drug activity, you must file a complaint in court immediately. Unlike the previous violations, you don’t have to serve your tenant with a prior notice.
2. Filing & Serving a Complaint
This is the next step in the eviction process. If a tenant fails to cure a violation or move out, you can file a complaint in a relevant court, usually a circuit or a district court.
The tenant will then be served with a summons and complaint at least 10 days before the hearing.
3. Court Hearing & Judgment
Once the summons and complaint are filed with the court, the eviction hearing must be held within 21 to 30 days.
During the hearing, the court will allow both parties to present their case. So, make sure to carry as much evidence as possible, including the lease agreement and the eviction notice served.
Sometimes a tenant may choose to fight the eviction. He or she may allege that:
The eviction was not procedural.
If you fail to serve the right eviction notice, for instance, a tenant may use that as a defense. That’s why landlords must follow the proper eviction procedure when evicting a tenant.
You tried to evict them by yourself.
Regardless of the violation, you cannot evict a tenant yourself. It’s only a sheriff through a court order that is mandated by law to do so. (Va. Code Ann. § 55.1-1243 (2020).).
The eviction was discriminatory.
The Fair Housing Act protects tenants against discrimination by landlords based on the 7 protected characteristics. The characteristics are color, race, religion, sex, disability, national origin, and familial status.
The property is uninhabitable.
As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to ensure your property meets all applicable health and safety codes. If you fail in this regard, a Virginia tenant has several options, including the option to withhold further rent payments.
So, if a tenant withholds rent due to your failure to maintain the property, the eviction will fail.
The tenant fixed the violation.
If a tenant fixes a violation, for instance, pays rent, you must stop further eviction proceedings henceforth. (Va. Code Ann. § 55.1-1245(B) (2020)).
The tenant is a victim of domestic violence.
Domestic violence victims in Virginia enjoy special protections. That being said, a tenant must meet all the requirements first to become eligible. (Va. Code Ann. § 55.1-1245(D) (2020).)
The eviction is an act of retaliation.
Retaliating against your tenant is illegal. You cannot, for example, retaliate against your tenant for joining or forming a tenant’s union. (Va. Code Ann. § 55.1-1258 (2020).)
4. Writ of Possesion
This is the final notice requesting a tenant to leave on their own. Once granted, the tenant will have 72 hours to move out. If they don’t, the sheriff will have no other option left other than to forcefully evict them.
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