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 evictions in Virginia properly to avoid an unfortunate squatting situation.
Virginia, just like other states, spells out the procedure landlords must follow when looking to evict tenants. It’s paramount that you understand the Virginia eviction process according and follow the right process adhereing to the Virginia landlord-tenant law. 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 legal eviction process in Virginia.
Virginia Eviction Timeline
1. Serving the Notice of Eviction
To start the eviction process, a Virginia residential landlord must serve the tenant with a notice of eviction. The notice is relative to the lease violations committed.
Nonpayment of Rent
For nonpayment of rent, a landlord 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 Virginia landlords want to file an eviction lawsuit against their tenant in court, they must serve the written notice if there unpaid rent and the due date has passed.
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 process. However, if they choose not to pay or move out, you can proceed with the eviction process in Virginia.
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, a landlord 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 lease agreement violation, as the landlord, you must stop further actionof the Virginia eviction process.
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 the rental unit.
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 written lease agreement 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, as the landlord, 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 like lease, a landlord doesn’t have to serve their 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, a landlord can file an eviction lawsuit and 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 notices served.
Sometimes a tenant may choose to fight the eviction. He or she may allege that:
The eviction was not procedural.
If the landlord 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, a landlord cannot evict a tenant themselves. 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 a tenant 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, a landlord 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 evictions are an act of retaliation.
Retaliating against a tenant is illegal. A landlord must not, for example, retaliate against their 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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