It’s normal to feel confused and scared when your landlord serves you an eviction notice.
Unfortunately, it’s also relatively common for landlords to do so with little to no forewarning.
The good news is that, in Virginia, there are a few ways that tenants can fight back.
In fact, Virginia landlords have to follow a strict timeline when it comes to evicting tenants.
In this article we’ll explain the basic rights you have as a Virginia tenant.
Specifically, we’ll cover the procedures your landlord has to follow in order to legally evict you.
When Does a Landlord Have to Provide Notice?
In Virginia, the eviction process can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the reason for the eviction and how (or whether) you choose to contest the process.
However, remember that landlords must always provide reasonable notice several days in advance.
The exact timeline will change based on the reason they are evicting you.
Eviction for Non-Payment of Rent
Normally, a Virginia tenant has five days from their rent’s official due date to pay any outstanding charges.
If you fail to do so, your landlord may post or mail you a five-day “Pay or Quit” notice.
This is a notice stating that you have five more days to pay your rent (including any late fees).
If you do not pay your rent within these five days, your landlord may begin court proceedings to evict you.
Even after the landlord begins eviction proceedings, they still don’t have the right to evict you immediately.
Instead, a judge must first grant a writ of possession, which should then be served to you by the sheriff or delivered to you personally.
This writ of possession is the final notice from the court that you must vacate the premises.
Altogether, this process usually takes well over a month from the date you miss your rent payment.
Eviction Due to the Sale or Foreclosure of the Property
One somewhat unusual case occurs when a landlord sells a property and the new owner wishes to evict the current tenants.
Often, cases like these will proceed according to the wording of the original lease, which remains in place.
If the lease has no provision for the sale of the property, standard tenants’ rights apply.
However, if your lease contains wording on evicting tenants after the property changes hands, two rules apply:
- First, your original landlord must provide you with information pertaining to the foreclosure or sale before it occurs. If they do not, you may be entitled to damages.
- After the foreclosure and sale, the new owner may choose to make the house their primary residence. If so, they must wait until the end of your lease to do so. If your lease has less than 90 days left, or if you have no lease, they must provide you a notice of termination 90 days in advance.
Eviction for a Breach of Lease or Other Causes
In almost all other circumstances, your landlord must provide you with at least 30 days notice before taking legal action.
Just like the notice for non-payment of rent, if a landlord wishes to evict you for violating your lease must provide you with a “cure or quit” (if the lease violation can be fixed) or an “unconditional quit” (if the lease violation can’t be fixed).
Even in emergency situations, a landlord must provide written notice a reasonable amount of time in advance.
This is slightly different for pay-by-the-week leases (as opposed to month-to-month leases), which only require 7 days of notice before a landlord can initiate eviction proceedings.
There is a narrow exception to this rule that applies when a criminal act or other dangerous behavior causes a lease violation.
In those cases, a landlord may immediately begin eviction proceedings without notice.
Finally, it’s important to note that in Virginia, a landlord must specifically provide a written eviction notice.
This applies to all of the cases stated above.
Under no circumstances can a Virginia landlord force an eviction with only an oral notice.
What Can My Landlord Do After Serving an Eviction Notice?
After serving all tenants proper notices, a landlord must work through the normal legal processes to evict those tenants.
This means working alongside state and local authorities to remove individuals and their belongings in a timely and reasonable fashion.
This means that, without going through all the proper procedures, your landlord cannot:
- Lock you out of your home.
- Remove your belongings from the property.
- Cut off essential services, such as heat or electricity.
If your landlord breaks any of these rules, you should immediately speak with an attorney about this breach of contract.
If you believe that your rights have been violated, you should contact a lawyer immediately.
By getting in touch with an experienced landlord-tenant attorney, you can better understand your specific case.
Together, you can work to prepare for any possible eviction proceedings and defend your rights in court.