Landlords have certain inherent rights under the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. One of the rights under the landlord-tenant act is the right to evict tenants for violating the tenancy agreement terms.

But while a landlord has a right to do so, the act also obligates them to follow the proper legal process. It would be unlawful under the landlord-tenant act for a landlord to remove their tenant through ‘self-help’ means. Additionally, as a landlord, you cannot do so as a retaliatory action or for discriminatory reasons. 

The following is everything a landlord needs to know when it comes to evictions in Virginia. 

Have a Legitimate Reason for Evicting Tenants 

Once your tenant has signed the lease or rental agreement, they obtain the right to continue living on the rental property for the entire term. For evictions to occur, they must have a valid reason. The following are the allowable reasons for the Virginia eviction process to begin: 

  • Failure by the tenant to make rent payments 
  • Violation of a term(s) of the written lease agreement 
  • If there is no lease or its terms have expired 
  • If the tenant commits an illegal activity 

Note that a landlord is required to follow specific rules when evicting a tenant on each of these grounds. 

Terminate the Lease/ Rental Agreement

To begin the process of eviction, a landlord must terminate the lease agreement. They must serve the tenant with prior written notice. The specific tenant notice to serve depends on the ground for eviction. The following are the different notices a landlord may serve tenants during the eviction process:

Virginia eviction lawsuit for lease violation

Failure to Pay Rent

If a tenant fails to pay rent during the tenancy, a landlord must serve them the 5-Day Notice to Pay to evict them. This will give the tenant 5 days to pay all the past due or unpaid rent to avoid an eviction. If the tenant refuses, the landlord can proceed with the eviction. 

Rental Agreement Violations

In the event of a tenant’s violation of the lease agreement, landlords have two eviction notices to choose from. The first notice period is the 30-Day Notice to Comply. A landlord must only use this Virginia notice for correctable, or curable violations like keeping an unauthorized pet or exceeding the rental unit limit. 

The other option a Virginia residential landlord has is the 30-Day Notice to Quit. But this is only meant for lease violations that cannot be corrected or remedied like if the tenant caused excessive rental property damage. 

No Lease or Tenant at Will

To evict a tenant with no lease or a “tenant at will”, a landlord must serve them an X-Day Notice to Quit. The proper notice period a landlord gives depends on the length of rental period. If the tenant pays rent weekly, a landlord has to serve them a 7-Day Notice. If it is a month to month lease, landlords must serve them a 30-Day Notice. 

Illegal Activity 

For tenants who engage in activity that is against the law, a landlord isn’t required to notify them first before filing. As the landlord, you can proceed to the next step immediately when you learn of the violation. In the state of Virginia, this includes illegal drug activity, criminal activity, and violent acts that can affect other residents’ safety or health. 

Virginia law to file an eviction lawsuit for not paying rent 

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 notice is served by a Virginia residential landlord, a summons and complaints 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: 

  • In-person
  • 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 general district court, an eviction hearing typically occurs no later than 21 to 30 days. The court proceedings can go beyond the 30 days if either party requests a jury trial. 

If the tenant chooses not to appear for the hearing, typically the general district court judge rules in the landlord’s favor by default. You, as the landlord, then need to request a writ of possession, which may be issued within 10 days. 

Court hearings after tenant written notice

If the tenant shows up in person, 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 the tenant from the rented property 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 Rental Unit

Once they’ve received the writ of eviction issued by the court, the landlord must give it to the sheriff or constable for onward delivery to the tenant. After the writ, there is a maximum of 72 hours to gather the tenant’s belongings and have them leave the rental premises, as this is treated at the tenant’s final served notice. If the tenant remains in the rental unit after this, they will get forcibly removed. 

Bottom Line

Understanding the legal eviction process is vital if you own a rental unit. You, as the landlord, must also stay informed of the Virginia landlord-tenant law, security deposit law, and other leasing regulations.

If you have a specific question regarding the eviction process in the state of Virginia, 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 provide service to property owners to achieve their investment goals in a stress-free manner! Our property managers can ensure that all day to day processes go smoothly. 

Disclaimer: This content isn’t meant to be a substitute for the service of 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. Seek advice from an attorney to ensure a judicious process.