Written Lease Agreements
Although Virginia law allows landlords to enter into oral lease agreements with their tenants, they may not raise their rent without providing proper written notice before increasing their rent. For week-to-week tenants, landlords must give them at least seven days’ written notice prior to increasing their rent. Landlords must give their monthly tenants at least 30 days’ written notice before raising their rent. For tenants with annual written lease agreements, landlords may not raise their rent until their leases end, and they must provide them with an opportunity to terminate their tenancies before the new rental rate becomes effective.
Eviction for Non-Payment
Landlords can evict their tenants for failing to pay rent on time by providing them with five days’ written “pay or quit” notices. Their notices must give tenants five days to pay their delinquent rent payments. When tenants pay their rent within five days, their landlords may not evict them solely for non-payment of rent. However, landlords may evict them for breaching any other terms of the lease agreement. Landlords have no duties to accept less than the full rental payment. Landlords also have a right to collect attorney’s fees and late fees, according to the Virginia Landlord and Tenant Act. If tenants do not pay their rent within five days, then landlords may pursue legal evictions by filing “unlawful detainer” actions against their holdover tenants.
When landlords file unlawful detainers in court, they may request courts to set an eviction hearing date and request rent escrow. With rent escrow, tenants must pay the entire amount of rent due as of the hearing date by escrowing their rent with the court. Courts have the discretion to deny a landlord’s rent escrow request.
Landlords who raise rent illegally before their tenants’ leases end cannot remove their possessions or cut-off utility services. Tenants have legal rights against their landlords’ illegal ouster actions, and they may file suits for actual damages and reasonable attorney’s fees. Tenants also have the option to terminate their lease agreements and demand a refund of their security deposits. Landlords must return their deposits within 45 days after their tenants vacate and return their rental premises. Landlords must provide their tenants with written notice to deduct for damages within 30 days of vacancy if they intend to deduct from their security deposits.
Since state laws can frequently change, do not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.