Rights, Regulations, & Landlord Tenant laws - Virginia 
In Virginia, landlords and tenants encounter an intricate network of local and state rental laws. These statutes, often called landlord-tenant laws, influence both parties’ rights and responsibilities, along with the dynamics of their landlord-tenant relationship. Navigating these intricate laws can be difficult, even for experienced landlords and renters.
To help overcome this challenge, we've crafted this comprehensive guide, addressing crucial rental topics such as tenant screening, rent payments, lease agreements, evictions, and more. Whether you find yourself in the role of a landlord or a tenant, this guide aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of Virginia's rental laws, as outlined in the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.
Landlords will uncover strategies to safeguard their rental properties and foster positive tenant relationships, while tenants will acquire the knowledge necessary to assert their essential rights.
Let's dive in!
Virginia landlord tenant law fast facts
Virginia landlord responsibilities and rights
Virginia law grants landlords fundamental rights, offering protection from potential legal and financial challenges in managing their rental properties. Some of these key rights include:
- Charging and receiving rent payments when due
- Collecting security deposits to address unforeseen expenses at the end of the lease
- Pursuing a legal eviction if the tenant fails to pay rent or breaches the lease
Virginia rental owners similarly bear a set of responsibilities that help guarantee a secure and seamless tenancy for renters. Their primary duties include:
- Providing a safe, habitable rental unit free of housing discrimination
- Making repairs within 14-21 days, depending on the issue, after receiving written notice from tenants
- Returning a tenant’s security deposit within 45 days after the lease ends
Virginia tenant responsibilities and rights
In Virginia, state law also grants tenants rights designed to safeguard their well-being and safety while residing in a rental property. Key rights for renters include:
- Occupying a rental property that complies with local and state health and safety codes.
- Requesting repairs and having them made within 14-21 days after providing written notice
- Taking appropriate legal measures if the landlord violates the lease
Same as landlords, Virginia renters have a set of responsibilities to uphold during their tenancy. Generally, these duties ensure the rental unit is maintained and the landlord goes financially unharmed. Tenants must:
- Pay rent on time
- Keep the unit in safe and habitable condition
- Remove garbage and waste
- Comply with health and safety building and housing codes
- Keep plumbing fixtures clean and sanitary
- Not disturb other renters or neighbors
- Not purposefully destroy or damage any part of the rental property, including smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Virginia landlord tenant laws through the rental cycle
Virginia tenant screening and rental application laws
Virginia’s rental application and tenant screening laws are fairly straightforward. State law limits rental application fees to $50 and the fee does not have to be refundable. Additionally, landlords cannot ask any questions on the rental application that may lead to housing discrimination.
Virginia landlords can run background checks like credit reports and other pre-occupancy checks, but must first obtain written consent from prospective tenants.
Virginia rental agreements and lease termination laws
In Virginia, leases can be oral, written, or digital if the lease period is less than 12 months. Leases longer than 12 months must be written. However, it’s always recommended to have a written rental agreement as it outlines the landlord’s and tenant’s responsibilities.
In addition to mandatory disclosures, landlords must include the following information: the landlord’s name, address, and phone number, along with the rent amount and due date, lease length, and description of the rental unit. Learn what other important information should be included in a lease agreement!
To terminate a lease in Virginia, tenants must provide a 30-day notice for week-to-week leases and 3 month’s notice for month-to-month tenancies. They may terminate a lease agreement early for the following reasons:
- Active military duty
- Early termination clause
- Landlord harassment
- Uninhabitable unit
- Domestic violence or family abuse
- Lease violation
- Failure to provide mandatory disclosures
Virginia security deposit laws
Like in other states, Virginia landlords can collect a security deposit at the start of a lease period to cover unexpected costs that may arise at the end of the tenancy. However, landlords must provide a written report describing the condition of the rental unit. Virginia state law limits how much a landlord can collect for the deposit to the equivalent of two months’ rent.
Landlords must return the tenant’s security deposit within 45 days at the end of the lease. Landlords may make deductions from the security deposit for reasons including rental damage exceeding normal wear and tear, costs due to early termination of the lease if applicable, other charges outlined in the lease, and unpaid rent and late fees.
If the landlord fails to comply with the notice period or wrongfully withholds funds, tenants can sue for the full security deposit plus attorney fees and actual damages.
Virginia rent laws
Virginia does not have rent control laws and prohibits its cities and towns from creating their own rent regulations. This allows all landlords in the state to charge any amount of rent and increase rent as often as they choose. However, they cannot increase rent during the lease term unless the lease specifically allows for it. Before increasing rent, landlords must provide month-to-month tenants a 30-day notice and weekly tenants a 7-day notice.
If tenants fail to pay rent on time, landlords are not required to provide a grace period before instating a late fee. However, if there is no written lease agreement, the landlord must provide a 5-day grace period. Late fees cannot be more than 10% of the rent owed.
Except for certain circumstances in which the warrant of habitability has been breached, Virginia tenants cannot withhold rent from the landlord.
Virginia repair and maintenance laws
After getting written notice from tenants, landlords must make repairs within 14-21 days, depending on the type of issue.
If landlords fail to make repairs in a timely manner, tenants can take several legal actions: sue for costs, file a court order to force the landlord to make repairs, and cancel the lease agreement. They can also utilize the “repair and deduct” remedy in which they make repairs themselves and deduct the cost from the following rent payment. If the issue is severe enough to breach the warranty of habitability, tenants can withhold rent through a court escrow program.
Virginia notice of entry laws
Virginia landlords can enter rentals for reasons including showings, repairs and maintenance, and inspections. Unless for an emergency, such as a fire or severe leakage, they must provide 24 hours’ notice before entering the property.
Virginia eviction laws
Virginia state law allows landlords to evict tenants for several legal reasons. And depending on the reason for eviction, they must provide a notice period before the eviction can begin. Here are the reasons for eviction and associated notice periods:
- Unpaid rent: If tenants fail to pay rent on time in Virginia, the landlord may issue a 5-day notice to pay. If the terms are still not met after 5 days, the landlord may continue with eviction proceedings.
- Lease violation: If tenants commit a lease violation, then the landlord may issue a 30-day notice to comply–giving the tenant 21 days to correct the issue or the lease will end at the 30-day mark. If the violation cannot be cured, the landlord may, instead, provide a 30-day notice to quit.
- Illegal acts: Illegal acts such as illegal drug use, criminal activity, and violent acts are grounds for eviction in Virginia. If the landlord finds that the tenant engaged in illegal behavior, then the landlord may begin the eviction process immediately without advance notice.
- No lease/end of lease: If the tenant stays past the end of the lease period, the landlord may issue a notice to quit. The notice period depends on the length of the tenancy. Week-to-week tenancies require a 7-day notice to quit and month-to-month leases require a 30-day notice to quit.
Virginia landlord tenant laws continued
Along with covering rental matters such as repairs and security deposits, Virginia state law also addresses things like landlord retaliation and discrimination. Explore some of these regulations below.
Both state and federal laws protect Virginia renters from housing discrimination. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, landlords are prohibited from discriminating against renters based on color, race, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Virginia provides further protection for renters based on age.
If a landlord violates housing discrimination laws, such as refusing to rent on a bona fide offer or falsely claiming a rental unit is unavailable, tenants can seek legal help and file a complaint with the Virginia Fair Housing Board.
It’s illegal for a Virginia residential landlord to retaliate against renters for taking legal actions like reporting landlords to authorities for health and safety violations. Raised rent, reduced services, or threatened eviction are all considered forms of retaliation. Doing so can result in a lawsuit against the landlord.
Virginia state law requires landlords to provide tenants with specific disclosures at the start of a lease. The disclosures include:
- Lead-based paint: Landlords who own rental properties built before 1978 must provide information about concentrations of lead-based paint.
- Authorized agent: Landlords must provide the names and addresses of all parties involved in owning and managing the property.
- Methamphetamine: Landlords must disclose if they know or suspect that the property has been used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine drugs in the past.
- Move-in checklist: Landlords must provide tenants with a written record of the condition of the property, as well as an inventory of the unit.
- Shared utility meter: Landlords must explain all utilities and their rates before starting the lease.
- Mold: Landlords must disclose if mold is present at the property before the tenant moves in. Tenants may dispute the disclosure in the first five days of their tenancy.
- Tenant rights: Landlords are required to provide every tenant with the Statement of Tenant Rights and Responsibilities.
- Location near military institution: Landlords must disclose if their rental property is near a military institution and may be affected because of its location.
- Defective drywall: Landlords are required to disclose if the property has defective drywall.
- Demolition or displacement: If tenants could be displaced within six months of the start of the lease due to demolition, conversion, or rehabilitation of the property, the landlord must disclose this to the tenant.
Navigating Virginia’s landlord tenant laws with confidence
Virginia's rental laws provide a transparent framework outlining the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant alike. Through understanding and adhering to Virginia's regulations, property owners and their counterparts can navigate the entire rental process with absolute confidence. Landlords can protect their real estate investments, tenants can assert their essential rights, and both parties can work together to foster a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials are for general informational purposes only. This content may not constitute the most up-to-date legal information. No reader, user, or browser of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information herein without first seeking the advice of a legal professional.