Virginia Laws for Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent

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Nonpayment of rent evictions in the Commonwealth of Virginia must follow a process outlined in Sections 55-248.02 through 55-248.40 of its legal code. This language is called the Virginia Landlord and Residential Tenant Act, which the legislature adopted in 1974. Landlords may start a nonpayment of rent eviction in five to 10 days, which leads to a civil court hearing on whether he can reclaim the property, and rent it out to someone else.

Initial Steps

Landlords must give written notice to a tenant who doesn't pay rent by the due date. This document is called a pay or quit notice. Tenants who receive it must pay the amount owed in five days or move, an overview from Virginia Legal Aid states. If the tenant makes good, the case stops there. If she doesn't, the landlord may file an eviction lawsuit in General District Court.

Filing Process

An eviction lawsuit begins when the landlord files a summons for unlawful detainer, and serves a copy of it on the tenant. Per Section 55-248.6, he may serve notice through a third party, leave it with a member of the household, or post it on the premises and mail the tenant a copy. If the tenant doesn't show up, the landlord wins a default judgment allowing him to evict her immediately.

Warning

  • A tenant is deemed properly served under VLTRA if the landlord follows the procedural steps correctly. For example, failure to see a posted notice or get one in the mail won't halt an eviction, since it meets the law's minimum notification requirements, according to Virginia Legal Aid's guidelines.

Legal Defenses

Once scheduled, the hearing represents the sole opportunity for both sides to argue their case. Possible defenses include retaliation for filing complaints with a government agency, or not charging the right amount of rent. Failure to keep an apartment livable is another possible defense -- although tenants using it must be current on rent, and have already notified the landlord in writing about any problems, Virginia Legal Aid's eviction process summary indicates. Alternatively, tenants can stop an eviction by paying all fees -- including the past due amount, plus court costs and late fees -- before the court enters a judgment.

Writ of Possession

If the court rules for the landlord, he gets a writ of possession, or formal order asking the local sheriff to evict the tenant in 10 days, advises the Central Legal Aid Society of Virginia, Inc. The sheriff must give the tenant 72 hours advance notice to retrieve any belongings and leave the premises.

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