The Eviction Process in Virginia: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers

An overview of Virginia eviction rules, forms, and procedures.

When evicting a tenant in Virginia, a landlord must first terminate the tenancy. In most cases, the landlord will need to provide the tenant with notice before terminating the tenancy and filing an eviction lawsuit against the tenant.

This article will explain how a landlord can evict a tenant in Virginia.

Notice for Termination With Cause

The first step in evicting a tenant is terminating the tenancy. If a landlord wants to evict a tenant before the term of the tenancy has ended, then the landlord must have legal cause. The most common legal causes of eviction are the tenant’s failure to pay rent or violation of the lease or rental agreement. However, the landlord can also evict the tenant for committing an illegal act, such as drug use or possession on the premises. For most of these situations, the landlord will first need to give the tenant notice before terminating the tenancy and filing an eviction lawsuit against the tenant.

  • Five-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit: If the tenant fails to pay rent when it is due, the landlord can give the tenant a five-day notice to pay rent or quit. This notice will inform the landlord that the tenant has five days to either pay rent or move out of the rental unit. If the tenant does not pay rent within the five-day time frame, then the landlord can go to court and file an eviction notice against the tenant (see  Va. Code Ann. § 55-225).Eviction Notices for Nonpayment of Rent in Virginia  has more information.
  • Thirty-Day Notice to Cure or Quit: If the tenant violates the lease or rental agreement and that violation can be remedied (such as by making minor repairs to the rental unit or finding a new home for an unauthorized pet), then the landlord must first give the tenant a 30-day notice to cure or quit. This notice will inform the tenant that the tenant has 21 days to either remedy the violation or move out of the rental unit. If the tenant does not remedy the violation or move, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant at the end of the 30 days (see  Va. Code Ann. § 55-248.31).
  • Thirty-Day Unconditional Quit Notice:  If the tenant violates the lease or rental agreement and the violation cannot be remedied (such as causing harm to other tenants or causing major damage to the rental unit), then the landlord can give the tenant a 30-day unconditional quit notice. This notice will inform the tenant that the tenant must move at the end of the 30-day period or the landlord will file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant (see  Va. Code Ann. § 55-248.31).
  • No notice necessary: The landlord is not required to give the tenant any kind of notice if the tenant commits a criminal act that is not remediable and threatens the health and safety of the premises and/or other tenants. This includes any illegal drug activity. The landlord can go straight to court and file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant (see  Va. Code Ann. § 55-248.31).

Notice for Termination Without Cause

A landlord cannot evict a tenant simply because the landlord does not like that person. If the landlord does not have a legal reason for eviction, then the landlord must wait until the term of the tenancy has expired before expecting the tenant to move. Depending on the type of tenancy, the landlord may still need to provide the tenant with notice.

Month-to-Month Tenancy

If a landlord wants to end a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord must give the tenant a 30-day notice informing the tenant that the tenancy will end at the end of the 30-day time frame. If the tenant has not moved out of the rental unit by the end of the 30 days, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant (see  Va. Code Ann. § 55-248.37).  Virginia Notice Requirements to Terminate a Month-to-Month Tenancy  has more information.

Fixed-Term Lease

If the tenant has a fixed-term lease or rental agreement, such as for one year, the landlord must wait until the end of the term before expecting the tenant to move. The landlord does not need to give the tenant notice to move unless the lease specifically requires it.

Tenant Eviction Defenses

Even though a landlord may have a valid legal cause to evict a tenant, the tenant may still decide to fight the eviction. The tenant may have a valid defense against the eviction, such as the landlord discriminating against the tenant or the landlord failing to follow proper eviction procedures. By fighting the eviction, the tenant could delay the eviction and remain in the rental unit for longer.  Tenant Defenses to Evictions in Virginia  has more information.

Removal of the Tenant

The only legal way for a landlord to remove a tenant is by winning an eviction lawsuit. Even then, the landlord is not authorized to remove the tenant from the rental unit; only a law enforcement officer can do that. It is illegal for a landlord in Virginia to attempt to force a tenant to move out of a rental unit, and the tenant can sue the landlord for trying.  Illegal Eviction Procedures in Virginia  has more information on illegal evictions.

After the tenant moves out of the rental unit, the landlord may find the tenant left abandoned property on the premises. The landlord can dispose of the property but only after notifying the tenant. The landlord has two options of notifying the tenant:

  1. When giving a termination notice to the tenant (such as a five-day notice to pay rent or quit), the landlord can include in the notice a statement that any property left on the premises by the tenant after the tenant moves out of the rental unit will be considered abandoned after 24 hours. The landlord can then dispose of the property at the end of the 24 hours after the tenant has moved out.
  2. If the landlord did not include the above statement in the termination notice, then the landlord must give the tenant a written 10-day notice stating that the tenant has 10 days to claim the property or the landlord will dispose of it.

See  Va. Code Ann. § 55-248.38:1.

Rationale for the Rules

Landlords must carefully follow all the rules and procedures required by Virginia law when evicting a tenant; otherwise, the eviction may not be valid. Although these rules and procedures may seem burdensome to the landlord, they are there for a reason. Evictions often occur very quickly, and the end result is serious: the tenant has lost a place to live. The rules help ensure the eviction is justified and that the tenant has enough time to find a new home.

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