Under Virginia landlord-tenant laws, landlords are allowed to collect security deposits from tenants at the start of a tenancy. A security deposit offers a landlord a safety net, ensuring compensation for losses arising from their tenant’s actions when renting out a property. Such actions may include things like moving out with unpaid utility bills or causing excessive damage both of which are violations of the lease contract.
A landlord cannot handle their renter’s security deposit any way they’d like. There are rules that you must abide by as a landlord. The following are answers to commonly asked questions regarding the Virginia security deposit law.
What is the Maximum Amount a can Landlord Charge a Tenant in Virginia as a Security Deposit?
Virginia caps how much a landlord can charge as a maximum security deposit. The maximum a landlord can charge their tenant shouldn’t exceed the equivalent of 2 months’ rent. Therefore, if a landlord charges a monthly rent of $1,000, then the most they can charge as a security deposit is $2,000.
Are Landlords Allowed to Charge Additional Security Deposits?
Yes! A Virginia landlord may be able to charge an additional security deposit on top of the rent deposit as long as it isn’t unreasonable. A pet deposit is a good example. Typically, the deposit ranges from anywhere between $200 and $500.
However, please note that charging a pet deposit on a disabled tenant is unlawful. Disability is a protected class under the Fair Housing Act. As such, requiring a disabled tenant to pay a pet deposit for their service animal would be considered discrimination.
What Deductions Can a Landlord Make on Tenants’ Security Deposits in Virginia?
As a Virginia landlord, you have a right to make deductions on your tenants’ security deposits. However, not all reasons may qualify. The Virginia landlord-tenant act allows landlords to make deductions for only the following reasons:
- Unpaid utility bills
- Unpaid rent and reasonable late fees if it’s been detailed in the residential leases or rental agreement
- Charges or damages that the lease agreement or rental agreement has spelled out
- Property damage exceeding normal deterioration
It goes without saying that you can only make such deductions once the tenant has moved out of their rental property.
What Does Damage Exceeding Normal Wear and Tear Mean?
Of course, as a landlord, under Virginia law, you’re responsible for maintaining your rental property. That said, as the dwelling unit ages, there is a certain amount of deterioration that a Virginia landlord should expect to occur. This is what is referred to as normal wear and tear. Examples of damage resulting from natural deterioration include the following:
- Loose door handles
- Loose grout on a ceramic tile
- Faded carpet due to normal everyday use
- Dirty grout
- Worn away the silver finish on bathroom fixtures
- Faded curtains due to sunlight exposure
- Scuffs on paint
Under the Virginia security deposit laws and landlord-tenant laws, a landlord cannot use the security deposit to pay the cost of fixing these issues. Damage exceeding normal wear and tear, on the other hand, isn’t naturally occurring. It’s the kind of damage that harms a dwelling unit value, usefulness, and normal functioning. A tenant can cause such damage either knowingly or unknowingly.
Examples of damage exceeding expected normal deterioration include:
- Missing door handles
- Missing or torn wallpaper
- Large stains or pet damage
- Broken or missing toilet seat
- Smashed bathroom mirror
- Illegal property alterations to the rental premises, for example, unauthorized paint colors
- Holes in walls
Do Virginia Landlords have to Keep Their Tenant’s Security Deposit Records?
Yes! It’s a Virginia property owner’s responsibility to keep all your tenants’ records under security deposit and Virginia landlord-tenant laws. The records should itemize any deductions a landlord has made to renters’ security deposits for at least the last 2 years. You must also, as the landlord, provide those records whenever required by the tenant or their legal representative.
Do Tenants in Virginia have a Right to a Walk-through Inspection?
Yes! The Virginia landlord-tenant law requires that landlords carry out a move-out inspection prior to a tenant leaving. A landlord must make a reasonable effort to notify your tenant of the inspection no more than 5 days before the tenant moves out. The tenant can choose whether or not to attend the move-out inspection.
The goal of a walk-through inspection is to simply check whether or not the tenant has caused excessive damage. If the tenants have, you must itemize the issues and give them the list.
When Must a Virginia Landlord Return Your Tenant’s Security Deposit?
Virginia landlords must return their tenants’ security deposit within 45 days of them moving out of the unit at the end of their tenancy. If you’ve made any deductions, then you must, as the landlord, return the remaining portion alongside an itemized written statement. You can send this statement to the tenant either by hand delivery or through certified mail.
What Must a Landlord Do if they Transfer the Property’s Ownership to a New Owner?
If a landlord sells their investment property, it’ll be the new owner’s responsibility to return the deposit back to the tenant.
What Can Happen if a Landlord Wrongfully Withholds a Tenant’s Security Deposit in Virginia?
If you fail to follow the state’s law on security deposits, you could be liable for certain penalties. This can include the tenant being entitled to the entire security deposit amount, plus the cost of going to court and or working with an attorney.
Can a Tenant Use the Security Deposit as Last Month’s Rent?
Not usually. There is no rental law that entitles a tenant to do so. There is an exception, though. And that is if both parties have a written lease agreement allowing it.
What if the Tenant Doesn’t Provide a Landlord with a Forwarding Address?
If a tenant fails to provide their landlord with a forwarding address, then they’ll need to keep their deposit for one year. Then after that, you’ll need to pay the amount to the Commonwealth. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have no further responsibility regarding the tenant’s security deposit.
As a landlord, it’s important that you understand Virginia’s security deposit law. You also need to stay up-to-date on the legal eviction process, Virginia landlord-tenant law, what to do if a tenant breaks the lease early, and any other rental policies.
If you would like help manning your rental premises and keeping up with your legal responsibilities, consider reaching out to the experts at Keyrenter Property Management Hampton Roads.
We offer full-service property management solutions to property owners in Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Suffolk, Hampton, and Newport News. Contact us today to learn more about our management services!
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice from a qualified attorney. Laws are subject to change and therefore this post may not be up-to-date at the time of your reading it.