Landlords in Virginia have certain inherent rights under the statewide Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. One of these rights is the right to evict a tenant for violating the lease terms.
But while you have a right to do so, the act also obligates you to follow the proper legal process. It would be unlawful for you, for instance, to evict your tenant through ‘self-help’ means. Additionally, you cannot evict a tenant as a retaliatory action or for discriminatory reasons.
The following is everything you need to know when it comes to evicting a tenant in Virginia.
Have a Legitimate Reason for Evicting Tenants
Once your tenant has signed the lease agreement, they obtain the right to continue living on the property for the entire lease term. For a landlord to remove them, they must have a valid reason. The following are the allowable reasons for a tenant eviction in Virginia:
- Failure by the tenant to make rent payments
- Violation of a term(s) of the lease agreement
- If there is no lease or the term of the lease has expired
- If the tenant engages in an illegal activity
Note that a landlord must follow specific rules to evict a tenant on each of these grounds.
Terminate the Lease Agreement
To begin the eviction process, you must terminate the lease agreement. You must serve the tenant with an eviction notice. The specific notice to serve depends on the ground for eviction. The following are the different notices you may serve tenants:
Non-payment of Rent
To evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent, a landlord must serve them the 5-Day Notice to Pay. This will give the tenant 5 days to pay all the past due rent to avoid an eviction.
To evict a tenant for violating the lease agreement, landlords have two eviction notices to choose from. The first eviction notice is the 30-Day Notice to Comply. You must only use this eviction notice for correctable, or curable violations like keeping an unauthorized pet or exceeding the rental limit.
The other option you have is the 30-Day Notice to Quit. But this is only meant for violations that cannot be corrected or remedied like if the tenant caused excessive property damage.
No Lease or Tenant at Will
To evict a tenant with no lease or a “tenant at will”, you must serve them an X-Day Notice to Quit. The number of days’ notice you give depends on the type of tenancy in operation. If the tenant pays rent weekly, you must serve them a 7-Day Notice to Quit. If they pay it monthly, you must serve them a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
For tenants who engage in illegal activity, you aren’t required to notify them first. You can proceed to the next step immediately when you learn of the violation. In the state of Virginia, the illegal activity includes illegal drug activity, criminal activity, and violent acts that can affect other residents’ safety or health.
File a Complaint in a Court
If you have served the tenant with the eviction notice and they haven’t corrected the issue, you can move to court and file a complaint. Note that although an eviction notice is served by a landlord, a summons and complaint aren’t.
A summons and complaint can only be served by a sheriff, a process server, or anyone aged at least 18 years of age who isn’t a party to the case. It must be served at least 10 days before the day of the court hearing. The service of the summons and complaint must be done in any of the following ways:
- By publication (court-order only)
- Posting a copy at the premises and mailing a copy to the tenant’s forwarding address
- Leaving a copy with a member of the family who’s aged at least 16 years of age
Attend the Court Hearing and Wait for the Judgment
Once a summon and complaint have been filed with the court, an eviction hearing typically occurs no later than 21 to 30 days. The hearing can go beyond the 30 days if either party requests a jury trial.
If the tenant chooses not to appear for the hearing, the court can issue a default judgment in the landlord’s favor. You, as the landlord, then need to request a writ of eviction, which may be issued within 10 days.
If the tenant shows up, the judicial officer will grant both parties an opportunity to present their cases. In your tenant’s attempts to fight off the eviction, they may allege any of the following:
- You tried to evict them through self-help means
- You fail to follow the law
- The eviction was a retaliatory action against them exercising any of their rights. For instance, you wanted them out for forming or joining a tenants’ union
- The tenant is a domestic violence victim
- The eviction was based on the tenant’s race, color, gender, religion, or any other protected characteristic under the Fair Housing Act
Remove the Tenant from the Property
Once you’ve received the writ of eviction, you must give it to the sheriff or constable for onward delivery to the tenant. At this point, the tenant will have a maximum of 72 hours to leave or else get forcibly removed.
Understanding the legal eviction process is vital if you own and are renting out a property. You must also stay informed of security deposit law and other leasing regulations.
If you have a specific question regarding the Virginia eviction process or any other aspect of property management, please get in touch with Keyrenter Hampton Roads. We’re a professional and reliable property management company that helps property owners achieve their investment goals in a stress-free manner!
Disclaimer: This content isn’t meant to be a substitute for professional legal advice from a qualified attorney. Also, laws change, therefore, this information may not be up-to-date at the time you read it.