Virginia Eviction Law

Posted by Christopher Berkompas in Virginia

Note: I am not a lawyer, and this is not intended as legal advice.

Under what circumstances may a tenant be evicted?

A landlord may terminate a lease or seek to evict his tenant for the following reasons:

  • Failing to pay rent 5 days after the tenant received a 5-day notice;
  • Failing to correct a lease violation within 21 days of being notified to do so; or
  • The lease is a month-to-month lease and either party gives a proper 30 days notice of intent to end the lease.

What is the process for evicting a tenant?

After a tenant has failed to pay rent for 5 days after the due date, the landlord may issue the tenant with a 5-day notice to pay or quit.  If the tenant fails to do either, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer lawsuit with the local court to evict him.  A hearing will then be held within a month, after which the court will make a judgment.  It is very important that the tenant show up at the hearing, because otherwise the judge will enter a default judgment in favor of the landlord.

If the tenant loses, he will have ten days to appeal, and prior to the court date he may avoid the eviction by paying all back rent.

If the tenant loses the suit, the landlord will request a writ of possession.  This document will be sent to the local sheriff, who will then set the date for evicting the tenant, of which he must give the tenant at least 72 hours notice.  The sheriff must evict the tenant no later than 30 days after receiving the writ of possession.


How are landlords supposed to deal with tenant belongings left behind?

The sheriff will remove them and commit them to a storage company, whose dues will be charged to the tenant until they are redeemed.

Can the landlord shut off utilities or lock a tenant out prior to the completion of the eviction process?

It is illegal for a landlord to force out his tenants by shutting off essential services, such as heat, water, gas or electricity.  However, he may do so in order to make a repair in the case of an emergency.

Prior to the actual eviction of a tenant by the sheriff, the landlord may not lock the tenant out of the premises.

Are landlords required to let tenants know why they are being evicted?

Yes, if the reason is a breach of the lease or nonpayment of rent.  In that case, the landlord should inform the tenant of his reasons in the notice he gives them to remedy the situation.  He is not obligated to restate his reasons in his complaint to the court or the papers which are served to the tenant at the start of the eviction process.

Is it legal for the landlord to deduct legal fees and court costs from the security deposit?

No.  As in most states, the only lawful use of a security deposit is against back rent or to repair damage the tenant has done to the property.

Can the landlord try to collect unpaid rent for the rest of the time left in the lease?

The court may ask the tenant to pay back rent, but not necessarily if the landlord has won simply by default because the tenant did not answer the summons.  In addition, a tenant may be able to avoid eviction even after being ordered to leave, if he pays all back rent and court costs.


  2. Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs
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