Guide to Common Virginia Rental Laws

Tenant Check February 26, 2020
Cora Younie

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Guide to Common Virginia Rental Laws

Virginia is a growing state for rental properties. With proximity to the country’s capital, renting is common and can be challenging for folks moving to the area from all over the country. Ensuring that landlords abide by the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act is critical for successful property management.

Security Deposit & Application Fees

In Virginia, landlords cannot charge a security deposit that exceeds 2 month’s rent. Other regulations around the inspection of the property include: 

  • Unit must be inspected within 5 days of the tenant moving out if the landlord wants to withhold funds
  • Unit must be inspected within 5 days of the tenant moving in for existing damage, any report of previous damage must be put in a report that must be sent to the other party
  • Landlord may also require the tenant to purchase renter’s insurance 
  • The cost of renter’s insurance and the security deposit may not exceed 2 month’s rent

Application fees are non-refundable fees that are used to cover administrative costs. This can include the tenant screening or background report used to vet the applicant. These fees cannot exceed $50. That limit is $32 if the unit is part of government housing. A refundable application deposit can also be charged.

Rental Agreement & Rules

Rental agreements in Virginia are relatively standard. They are not required, but recommended, for leases less than 12 months. For all written rental agreements, the following are prohibited from being included:

  • Waiving of the tenant’s rights under Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act
  • Any clause saying the tenant will pay the landlord’s lawyer or legal fees
  • Any clause saying the tenant agrees to post a surety bond and pay a security deposit

A copy of the signed lease must be provided to the tenant within 30 days of signing.
Late Fees may only be charged if they are included in the lease. Bounced check or processing fees may not exceed $50.
In Virginia, if a landlord wants to implement new rules and regulations for the property, they are required to follow a certain set of guidelines.

  • The rule’s purpose is to promote convenience, safety, or welfare.
  • The rule is related to its purpose.
  • The rule is applied to all tenants in a fair manner.
  • The rule is clear as to what the tenant must do or not do.
  • The rule’s purpose is not for the landlord to evade their duties.
  • When the rule is implemented, the tenant is provided a copy and agrees in writing.
  • The rule cannot change the lease if implemented after the tenant moves in.

The tenant is permitted to ask for a written statement of all payments and credits over the course of the tenancy. This is limited to 12 months. The statement must be provided within ten days.

Repairs

Landlords in Virginia must keep the property in a habitable condition in accordance with state and federal law. The following housing codes must also be adhered by to ensure the health and safety of the tenants:

  • Common areas kept clean
  • Electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances must be kept in working condition, this also includes elevators
  • Take steps to prevent mold build-up
  • Heat, air-conditioning, and running hot water must be provided
  • Carbon monoxide alarm must be installed in the unit and maintained by the landlord

Landlords are not required to provide notice to enter the unit, but they must provide 24 hours notice to do routine repairs.
Requesting repairs to the unit from the landlord must be done in writing. The tenant is permitted to terminate the lease if repairs are not done within 21 days. The tenant must still provide a 30-day notice to vacate the property if the landlord doesn’t make the repairs.

Terminating the Lease

Mutual

When a lease term is over, both the tenant and landlord may agree to continue the lease. It will then continue at the rent price outlined in the lease on a month-to-month basis. The landlord or tenant must provide 30 days’ notice to then end the lease.
If the lease terms end and the landlord no longer agrees with the tenant’s occupancy, the tenant is then a holdover and can be sued.

Military Personnel

There are certain special privileges for military personnel regarding the termination of a lease agreement. A lease may be ended early under the following circumstances, with the proper notification:

  • Orders to change station to a base 35 or more miles away
  • Temporary orders (more than three months) to change station to a base 35 or more miles away
  • Discharged from active duty
  • Ordered to report to government-supplied quarters

The landlord must still be notified, with a copy of the military orders, at least 30 days before the lease terminates and no more than 60 before the orders take effect.

Eviction

In Virginia, the landlord can evict a tenant for the following reasons:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Damage to the property, intentionally
  • Rental agreement breached
  • Illegal drug activity on the property

If a breach of the rental agreement is motivating the eviction, it is required that a 30-day notice is provided and the tenant is granted 30 days to remedy the defect. Only a 5-day notice is required if the eviction is happening because of a failure to pay rent. A tenant can be evicted immediately if illegal drug activity or other behavior endangering other tenants is occurring.
Some Virginia cities are implementing a new Eviction Diversion Pilot Program. Danville, Hampton, Petersburg, and Richmond will be following new legislation in 2020 to help lower evictions and get more visibility as to why some evictions are occurring.

Abandonment

If a landlord doesn’t know if a unit is abandoned. They must send written notice to the tenant requesting that the tenant confirm, within 7 days, that the unit is still occupied. If they do not respond, the unit is considered abandoned. All property left in the unit is also considered abandoned.

Retaliation

Landlords are not permitted to increase rent, decrease services, or threaten eviction if the tenant has done the following:

  • Filed a complaint regarding building or health and safety codes with a government agency
  • Complained to the landlord
  • Joined a tenant’s union
  • Testified against the landlord

Landlords can be sued at any time for any cost or expenses that come from retaliation.

Victims of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

Special privileges are granted to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

  • Change locks or request a change of locks
    • With the appropriate court order
  • Terminate a lease early
    • A restraining order must be in place against the abuser
    • They must still provide a 30-day notice