According to Virginia laws, a lease agreement can be entered between and landlord and tenant either verbally or as a written lease. Both landlords and tenants obtain certain rights and responsibilities under the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.
All Virginia landlords obtain certain rights such as the right to evict your tenant for violating a term of the verbal or written rental agreement. Your tenant, on the other hand, obtains the right to be treated fairly and respectfully as per the Virginia Fair Housing laws. The statewide tenancy law also requires both parties to abide by certain responsibilities.
In today’s article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know regarding the basics of the Virginia landlord-tenant laws.
Required Landlord Disclosures
Landlords in Virginia have a legal obligation to provide their tenants with certain information. You must provide your tenant with the following information prior to them signing the lease agreement. If the landlord fails to do so, your tenant can use that as a legal ground to terminate their lease early.
The following are the disclosures that are required at either the federal or state level.
- Information on the use of lead-based paint. This is required of landlords who rent buildings built prior to 1978.
- A move-in checklist detailing the condition of the property prior to a tenant moving in.
- The names and addresses of the people tasked with the responsibility of managing the property.
- Whether the property is located near an “accident potential zone” or a “noise zone.”
- Presence of defective drywall.
- Disclosure on whether you have actual knowledge on whether the property has been used at any point for the manufacture of methamphetamine.
- Whether or not the property contains mold.
- Disclosure on how utilities are going to be split between the various tenants in a multi-family building.
- Whether the unit is going to be demolished, rehabilitated, or converted within a period of 6 months after a tenant moves in.
Tenants’ Rights & Responsibilities in Virginia
Tenants in Virginia have the following renter’s rights as per the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. The right to:
- Enjoy their rented home in peace and quiet.
- Live in a home that meets the basic habitability standards.
- Terminate the rental agreement in certain legally justified circumstances.
- Be treated fairly by the landlord without being discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, or any other protected class.
- Have repairs done within 30 days of notifying the landlord. If the issue poses an immediate danger to your tenant’s health or safety, then you must begin handling it within 24 hours.
- Exercise any of their rights without being retaliated against.
The list of responsibilities for Virginia tenants is as follows.
- Keep the premises clean and sanitary.
- Comply with all habitability standards, especially those that impact their health and safety.
- Keep all plumbing fixtures clean.
- Not to cause damage exceeding normal wear and tear as a result of their negligence, carelessness, abuse, or misuse.
- Remove garbage and trash.
- Maintain the unit by preventing growth of mold or moisture accumulation.
- Paying utility services promptly.
- Paying the rent.
- Using all the utilities, appliances, and facilities in a reasonable manner.
Landlords’ Rights & Responsibilities
Equally, the law gives Virginia landlords certain rights and responsibilities. You obtain the right to:
- Enter your tenant’s rented premises, given a verbal or written notice.
- Terminate the rental agreement and process an eviction of a tenant for causing a gross violation of the renting terms.
- Choose the type of tenant you wish to rent to as long as the process doesn’t discriminate against any applicant on the basis of their protected class.
- Require a tenant to pay a security deposit prior to moving in.
- Enforce the terms of the rental agreement, such as levying a late fee on late payment of rent.
- Charge the amount of rent of your choosing and increase it when you want to by whichever amount you decide is best.
Overview of the Virginia Landlord Tenant Laws
Virginia residential landlords have a right to enter their tenant’s rented premises. However, landlord access to the property is limited and it is one of your responsibilities to provide your tenant with a notice of at least 24 hours before doing so. The entry times must also be reasonable or as agreed.
As already mentioned, tenants have a right to be treated fairly and respectfully regardless of their protected class. The classes are: race, color, religion, sex, nationality, disability, and familial status. The state of Virginia also adds “age” to the list already provided by the federal government.
The government department tasked with the responsibility of enforcing discrimination complaints is the Virginia Fair Housing Board. Any discrimination under these protected classes can result in legal action in court.
Virginia law explicitly prohibits local governments from passing rent control laws. This, therefore, means that landlords can charge as much rent as they like. That said, it’s in your best interest as a landlord not to overcharge a tenant in order to avoid high vacancy rates. The amount should be reasonable so the average tenant of the area is able to pay rent.
You’re also under no legal obligation to provide your tenant with any justification for raising rent. There are also no restrictions on the amount you can raise rental payments by. However, raising rent payments without reason might cause the tenants to distrust you.
Early Lease Termination
Normally, a tenant in a fixed-term lease can only move out after their term has ended. If not, as a landlord, you can hold them liable for paying all rent due under the rental agreement.
There are some exceptions for that blanket rule, though. In Virginia, a tenant can legally break their rental agreement early for the following reasons.
- Active military duty
- Domestic violence
- Uninhabitable unit
- Early termination clause in the written rental agreement
- Failure to be provided with mandatory disclosures
- Lease violation by the landlord
Landlords in Virginia are under no obligation to mitigate damages after a tenant has left early. This means that if a tenant breaks their agreement early for any other reason except those aforementioned, you’ll be under no obligation to re-rent the unit.
Technically speaking, you can choose to sit back and relax and wait for the lease to end, then sue the tenant for all payments due under the rental agreement.
Being a landlord in Virginia can be confusing. The expert team at Keyrenter Richmond is here to answer any of your questions related to landlord tenant law and to help with all your property management needs. Give us a call today for more information.
Disclaimer: This blog does not replace professional legal advance provided to you by a registered attorney. Laws frequently change and there is a possibility that this information may not be up to current laws at the time you read it.
For professional help, not only in Virginia landlord-tenant law, but in multiple aspects of being a landlord, our team at Keyrenter Richmond can help. We take the stress out of managing your Richmond rental property.