Virginia Landlord-Tenant Law
You could be a college student renting a small studio apartment in Virginia Beach—living a fun life filled with late nights and beach parties. Then reality hits and you’re struggling to make your rent payments.
Perhaps you’re that tenant’s landlord and even though she’s a good kid trying to enjoy her youth, you have bills to pay, too. On top of that, you probably can’t afford a plumber to fix her leaking toilet like she’s asked until she makes her rent payments.
This kind of situation is like many others in Virginia. Tenants and landlords both have legal obligations to the business relationship that can become complicated by the stresses of everyday life. Sometimes one party may neglect to uphold their end of the bargain for whatever reason, resulting in a breach of the lease’s terms or local laws.
Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you should typically be able to deal with legal issues without going to court. Some landlord-tenant disputes will leave you with no other option. Both parties need to know the basics of renting out a place, how to collect or pay security deposits, about fair housing laws, etc. This overview of key Virginia landlord-tenant laws will help guide you.
To help cover unpaid rent and repairs to damages to the rental property beyond normal wear and tear, landlords may charge new tenants a security deposit of up to two months’ rent. The security deposit isn’t considered a tenant’s last-month rent payment—it is a separate, one-time fee charged as part of a lease agreement.
Landlords must keep the security deposit in an account that accrues interest. If a tenant has resided in the same dwelling for 13 months or longer, the landlord must pay them the accrued interest upon returning the balance of their security deposit.
Once the lease is terminated, the landlord must provide written notice of any deductions they make to the security deposit and return the balance to the tenant within 45 days. If no deductions are claimed, the entire balance of the deposit must be returned within 45 days.
Tenants who don’t pay their rent in full or fail to fulfill their obligations under their lease agreement run the risk of eviction. However, landlords cannot simply evict a tenant without first filing a notice and attaining a court order for eviction.
If a tenant doesn’t make their rent payment on time, the landlord must deliver a written notice that if the rent isn’t paid within five days from receiving the notice, the tenant forfeits their right to possessing the rental property.
If a tenant fails to maintain or repair their rental property within applicable safety and health codes and the lease’s terms, the landlord must provide a written notice giving them 21 days to remedy the issue. If the issue isn’t remedied by then, the landlord may terminate the lease no sooner than 30 days after the tenant received the notice.
The lease agreement is the foundation of the landlord-tenant relationship. It is a legally binding contract detailing the responsibilities both the landlord and the tenant promise to uphold. In addition to specifics like amenities, renovations and other apartment features, the lease includes legal details like:
- Grounds for lease termination and eviction.
- The rent rate and payment schedule.
- The length of the leasing term (weeks, months or years).
- The security deposit amount and what it covers.
- Roommate and guest policies.
- Repair policy and procedures.
Virginia Fair Housing Laws
Virginia prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on characteristics that are protected by the state’s fair housing laws. Specific actions like failing to maintain the common area near a particular group of apartments may be considered discriminatory if the landlord does these things because of a tenant’s:
- Familial status
- National origin
Getting Legal Help from a Virginia Attorney
While many landlord-tenant conflicts can be resolved without going to court, the laws involved in these conflicts are complex. The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development published a guide for tenants and landlords that contains more information about landlord and tenant laws. If you find you are in need of legal counsel or advice, you should consider hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer to represent your interests.