Virginia Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent

Find out what justifies rent withholding in Virginia if your rental unit has serious defects.

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Virginia tenants are legally entitled to rental property that meets basic structural, health, and safety standards and is in good repair. If a landlord fails to take care of important maintenance, such as a leaky roof or a broken heater, you have several important legal rights, including the right to withhold rent until repairs are made.

What Justifies Tenants Paying Less Rent in Virginia

Before you can withhold rent, make sure that the circumstances justify you paying less rent and that you comply with state legal requirements on things like notice you must provide your landlord. Check Virginia state law (see resources below) on the following:

  • the type of repair and habitability problems that qualify for rent withholding
  • the type of notice you must give the landlord and the amount of time the landlord has to fix the problem before you can withhold rent
  • the limit on how much rent you may withhold and how often you can use a particular remedy
  • your protection from landlord retaliation, such as a termination notice or a rent increase, for exercising your legal right to pay less rent because of a habitability problem, and
  • any other conditions that apply before you can withhold rent, such as a requirement that you pay rent into an escrow account.

Virginia Guide to Tenant Rights

For an overview of Virginia landlord-tenant law, including your rights to habitability, see http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/FCS/FCS-8/FCS-8_PDF.pdf.

Virginia State and Local Law on Rent Withholding and Landlord Retaliation

For state law on rent withholding, see Va. Code Ann. §§ 54-248.25, 54-248.25.1, 54-248-27.

For state law prohibiting landlord retaliation, see Va. Code Ann. § 55-248.39.

See the Laws and Legal Research section of Nolo for advice on finding and reading statutes and court decisions.

Also, check your local housing ordinances for any city or county rules that cover tenant rights when it comes to repairs. Contact your local building or housing authority. To find yours, call your mayor or city manager’s office or check your city or county website.

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