Virginia Landlord Handbook
Virginia has some specific landlord laws and renter laws that it’s important to observe as your rental properties grow. If you’re looking for information specific to tenant screening in Virginia, be sure to check out our Virginia Tenant Screening Guide. It is filled with free forms, resources, and helpful links specific to the state of Virginia.
Virginia Landlord-Tenant Laws
The newest version of the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act went into effect in July of 2021. The full document can be found here, but we’ve laid out some of the most important points below.
Virginia Tenant Screening
It is important for landlords to conduct thorough background checks on potential tenants, which may include reviewing past evictions, money owed in the form of liens or judgments, history of bankruptcy filings, and criminal history. This process can help landlords weed out the unqualified applicants, and find one that is a perfect match for their rental property while protecting their property and ensuring the safety of other tenants.
Screening applicants for criminal history can help identify individuals with a history of crimes that could cause issues in the rental property. These could be crimes such as violence, property damage, drugs, or other criminal activities that may pose a threat to the safety and security of the property and its occupants. By eliminating the applicants with a concerning criminal background, the landlord can protect their investment along with reducing the likelihood of future issues.
Though the tenant screening process is crucial, it is also essential to conduct the screening in a fair and legal manner. Landlords must comply with all applicable fair housing laws and regulations to avoid discrimination. It is also important to treat all applicants equally and to apply a consistent criteria when evaluating their eligibility.
To ensure compliance with fair housing laws and avoid any discriminatory practices, housing providers should follow the guidelines set forth by federal, state, and local fair housing regulations.
Reporting guidelines for bankruptcies, judgments/liens, and evictions are set by the Federal Credit Reporting Agency (FCRA). The FCRA has determined that:
- Judgments are reportable for up to 7 years from the filing date or released date
- Liens are reportable for up to 7 years from the filing date or released date
- Evictions are reportable for up to 7 years from the filing date or released date
- Bankruptcies are reportable for up to 10 years
Overall, a well-rounded screening process that includes a review of an applicant’s criminal history can help landlords make informed decisions and create a safer living environment for their tenants and their property.
Similar to other states in the nation, Virginia does not have their own state guidelines for reporting criminal records. Instead, they follow federal guidelines, which include:
- Felony charges that resulted in a conviction are reportable indefinitely
- Felony charges that resulted in a non-conviction are only reportable for 7 years
- Misdemeanor charges (conviction or non-conviction) are only reportable for 7 years
Virginia Landlord Rights
Here are some of the top landlord rights to keep in mind for property owners in the state of Virginia.
Entering Without Permission
There are some restrictions on when and how a Virginia landlord can enter or access their occupied rental property. Virginia landlords must provide 24 hours notice before they enter a tenant’s rental property, with one notable exception. Landlords in Virginia are not required to provide notice if they are entering the rental property after a tenant has made a maintenance request.
RentPrep provides documents that can help avoid problems with tenants objecting to your entering their unit. It’s always a good idea to include a rental agreement clause in your lease that advises your tenants of your right to enter.
There are no rent increase laws or rent control laws in Virginia, which gives landlords the right to raise rent without limit. Landlords in Virginia must give their tenants a 30-day written notice of the rent increase. If your tenant objects to the raise in rent, they have the right to leave the property within the 30-day notice period.
Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act Exemptions
Although the VRLTA covers most residential property agreements, there are a limited number of properties that are exempt. The following occupancy types may be subject to different protections than those listed in the VRLTA.
Exempt Occupancy Types
- Occupancy in public or private institutions if the residence is part of detention or the provision of medical, geriatric, educational, counseling, or religious services
- Occupancy in a fraternity house or similar structure
- Occupancy by an owner of a condo unit
- Occupancy in a campground
- Occupancy by a tenant who pays no rent pursuant to a rental agreement
- Occupancy by an employee for a landlord whose right to occupancy is conditioned upon employment
- Occupancy by a former employee whose occupancy is less than 60 days
- Occupancy under a contract of sale if the occupant is the purchaser
- Occupancy in a recovery residence
- Certain types of occupancy in a hotel, motel, or extended stay facilities
Virginia Landlord Responsibilities
Below are some of the most important responsibilities that Virginia landlords need to consider.
Fair Housing Laws
Under the federal Fair Housing Act of 196, Virginia landlords cannot discriminate against prospective tenants based on race, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or physical or mental disability. Landlords in Virginia can, however, legally reject applicants on the basis of bad credit history, negative references from previous landlords, or bad past behavior such as consistently missing rent deadlines.
Providing Livable Rentals
Virginia landlords are required to keep rentals habitable. This means taking care of important repairs that will prevent tenants from becoming injured or being unable to live in the space. If these repairs are not addressed timely, Virginia tenants have the right to withhold rent.
Landlords in Virginia should also use their lease or rental agreements to make disclosures to tenants. These disclosures can include the presence of lead-based paint or any visible evidence of mold. RentPrep can provide templates for these disclosures to assist landlords in providing necessary information to tenants.
Virginia Rent to Own Laws
Rent-to-own laws allow tenants to choose to purchase the property for a set price after renting it for a certain period of time. In Virginia, the landlord must inform the tenant of the number and dollar amount of payments they must make before the agreement is satisfied and the property transfers ownership.
The landlord should also provide a description of the property to the tenant, including a damage report. Virginia landlords should also make sure to include who is responsible for making repairs and maintaining the property throughout the lease before the tenant purchases the property.
Tenants have the right to change their minds about purchasing the property. If the tenant makes this decision and less than ⅔ of the property price has been paid, they can change their mind within 21 days. If more than ⅔ of the property price has been paid, the tenant has 45 days to change their mind.
According to Virginia landlord-tenant laws, landlords have the right to evict tenants for certain reasons. These reasons include:
Failure to Pay Rent
If a Virginia tenant has not paid rent per the lease agreement, their landlord should provide a 5-Day Notice to Pay to inform the tenant that, if they do not pay their rent within 5 days, they will be subject to eviction. If the tenant does pay the outstanding rent before those 5 days are up, the eviction process stops. If a landlord has four or more rental properties, they cannot evict a tenant based solely on failure to pay rent during the period beginning on March 12, 2020, and ending 30 days after the expiration of any state of emergency declared by the Governor related to COVID-19.
Virginia landlords and tenants are both required to abide by their lease agreement at all times. If a tenant violates the lease, the landlord must give the tenant a 30-Day Notice To Comply. If the tenant does not resolve the issue within 21 days, they are required to use the remaining nine days to move out of the property.
If the tenant has done something that cannot be fixed, the landlord must provide them with a 30-Day Notice to Quit. This does not allow the tenant to rectify their violation and requires them to move out within 30 days.
If a Virginia tenant has been conducting illegal activity at their rental property, the landlord can evict them without notice.
Virginia Section 8 Rules
The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, is a federally funded program that provides housing assistance to low-income Virginia residents. If a tenant qualifies for Section 8, they will be provided with subsidized vouchers through the Virginia Housing and Development Agency. Virginia landlords with more than four rental units cannot refuse to rent to a tenant using Section 8 if there are no other reasons to deny their application. Voucher applicants can still be rejected for other valid reasons, such as not passing a background check or having a negative rental history.
It is important for Virginia landlords to comply with fair housing laws in order to avoid legal issues.
Virginia Security Deposit Rules
The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act restrict the amount that landlords may collect from a tenant for a security deposit to two months’ rent.
Virginia law doesn’t specify how landlords must hold a tenant’s security deposit. However, if the deposit is put into an interest-bearing account for at least 13 months, the landlord must pay it at the end of the tenancy.
The state laws of Virginia require landlords to return a security deposit to a tenant within 45 days of the end of the tenancy.
Virginia laws concerning security deposits can be found in Va. Code Ann. §§ 55-218.1 to -248.40.
Regarding Application Fees
Virginia law does not allow landlords to collect an application fee for tenant screening services that exceed $50. The law allows landlords to collect an application fee to pay for screening services, plus an application deposit. If the applicant doesn’t rent the unit, the landlord must refund the application deposit within 20 days.
Regarding Tenant Bad Checks
Civil Penalties: The landlord can charge the lesser of the following, $100 or three times the amount of the original check.
Criminal: A $200 fine or up to 12 months in jail, or both, at the court’s discretion.
Allowable Fees: $35