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A Landlord’s Guide: Virginia Eviction Process

guide to virginia eviction process

When it comes to the eviction process, following the letter of the law is essential for landlords. Especially during these trying times recovering from the pandemic, every landlord must understand the process and restrictions involved in removing a tenant. Continue reading below as we break down the eviction process in Virginia, how it differs from other states and the impact of the current eviction moratorium for property owners.

Step by Step Eviction Process in Virginia

As with any state, the eviction process in Virginia requires landlords to follow specific steps and requirements. So, let’s delve a bit deeper into that step-by-step process below –

  1. Provide Notice to the Tenants
  2. Unlawful Detainer Summons
  3. Appear at Trial
  4. Writ of Possession Granted

Step by Step Eviction Process in VirginiaProvide Notice to the Tenants

The first step for landlords is to let the tenant know of the intent to pursue eviction proceedings. That said, the reason for eviction affects the type of notice landlords send –

  • 5-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit – Typically, this notice goes out to tenants who fail to pay the rent within the specified grace period per the lease. Thus, upon receipt, tenants have five days to bring the rent current or vacate.
  • 30-Day Notice to Fix or Quit – When a lease violation occurs, landlords may use a thirty-day notice to fix or quit as a means to bring tenants into compliance. For example, the tenant might have an unauthorized pet or a trash complaint from the city.
  • 30-Day Notice to Quit – Not every landlord-tenant situation is repairable. Therefore, a thirty-day notice to quit addresses major violations by notifying the tenants they will be evicted at the end of 30 days.

Additionally, there are instances where no notice is needed as part of the eviction process in Virginia. For example, if the tenants engage in criminal activity or their actions threaten the safety of the property or others, landlords can head straight to court.

Unlawful Detainer Summons

Once notice is sent, the landlord must wait for the appropriate amount of time for the tenant to take action. So, while waiting out the terms of the notice, landlords can gather proof and documents to prepare for court. If the tenant does not cure the violation, bring the rent current, or vacate, the property owner needs to file a summons for unlawful detainer. Once processed, the court will schedule a hearing.

Appear at Trial

The hearing is set, and it is time to plead your case to regain control of the property. Keep in mind, the tenant has the opportunity to argue against a landlord, so it is critical to prepare with all necessary evidence such as –

  • Signed Lease Agreement
  • Accounting Records
  • Photos or Video Evidence of Damage
  • Call Transcripts or Copies of Email and Text Communications
  • Proof of Notice Delivery

After each party has a chance to speak to the judge, they will come to a decision. If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, the tenant has 10 days to appeal.

Writ of Possession GrantedWrit of Possession Granted

When a landlord receives the judgment of possession, they can then ask the court for a “writ of possession.” Therefore, if the tenant still does not leave on their own, this document is sent to the Sheriff. Then, the Sheriff will schedule a physical eviction within 30 days to remove the tenant from the rental property.

Legal Reasons to File for Eviction

When a landlord wants a tenant out, they must have a legal basis for an eviction claim. After all, the tenant signed a lease and therefore has a right to live in the home for a set period of time. Property owners must understand these rights to avoid costly litigation. Check out the legal reasons to evict a tenant below –

  • Non-Payment of Rent
  • Tenant Holding Over
  • Violating Lease Terms
  • Wrongful Detainer

Non-Payment of Rent

When the rent is not received within the grace period per the lease, landlords can pursue eviction, especially if the problem is habitual. The COVID-19 pandemic and eviction moratoriums temporarily protect tenants against this type of eviction. So, if the tenants stop paying, we recommend reaching out to try and work with them to find a mutually beneficial path forward.

Tenant Holding OverTenant Holding Over

Once the lease term expires, a tenant must renew or vacate. However, if they do not do either, this is considered holding over. Therefore, formal eviction through the courts is the best option for landlords to remove the tenant.

Violating Lease Terms

The purpose of a signed rental agreement is to articulate the rules and policies both landlords and tenants must adhere to. So, property owners have legal standing to remove them from the property through a lawful eviction when tenants violate those terms. Common violations include –

  • Unauthorized pets in the home
  • Extra occupants in the property not listed on the lease
  • Unauthorized alteration to the property
  • Tenants caused damage to the unit
  • Residents engaging in criminal activity

Wrongful Detainer

What a guest, family member, or other unauthorized persons reside in the property but are not part of the lease and do not vacate upon request, this is known as a wrongful detainer. That said, the only legal way to remedy the situation is to seek a court-ordered eviction.

How the Eviction Process in Virginia Differs from Other States?

It is all about timing when it comes to the eviction process in Virginia. Let’s review a few ways the eviction process in Virginia is different than in other states.

Filing Notice

For a long time, landlords needed to file a new notice every month that the tenant paid their rent late. Thankfully, many regulations are changing for the better to become more balanced for tenants and property owners. So, landlords must pay close attention to the specific timeframes between when they give notice and when they file in court.

Possession Removal

Ideally, the tenant will leave and take all of their possessions with them. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and Virginia has strict requirements for handling tenant property. So, if the tenant leaves items behind, check out these two options below –

Possession Removal

  • 24-Hour Notice – When a landlord sends the initial notice, it is important to include a statement regarding the tenant’s property. This is known as a “24 Hour Notice,” meaning that any items left behind after eviction will be deemed abandoned after 24 hours.
  • 10-Day Notice – When landlords do not include the policy above with the initial notice, they must wait 10 days before the property can be considered abandoned. Additionally, landlords must send a 10-day notice to the tenant informing them to collect the property, or it will become abandoned.

After either 24 hours or the 10-day window has expired, landlords are free to sell or dispose of the property left behind. However, if you choose to sell the items, there are added restrictions. For example –

  • Money made from the sale of the tenant abandoned property can go toward recovering expenses such as back rent, damages, or the cost of item removal.
  • Any additional profits made from the sale of items must be returned to the tenant, similar to the security deposit.

A Note About Self-Help Evictions

Self-help evictions are exactly as they sound. When a landlord takes matters into their own hands and attempts to remove a tenant by bypassing the legal court system. That said, landlords may try to use intimidation, threats, or even physical force to get the tenant out. However, not only is this potentially dangerous, it is illegal! So, a tenant can actually then sue the landlord for damages. Never attempt a self-help eviction. Although the legal eviction process takes time and can prove frustrating at times, it is the only way to go.

Is There a Stress-Free Way to Handle Evictions?Is There a Stress-Free Way to Handle Evictions?

Yes, and the solution is professional and experienced property management. Whether you are trying to navigate the changing eviction requirements due to COVID-19 or need help to find quality tenants, Bay Property Management Group can help. Our team of local rental property managers in Arlington handles the day-to-day operations as well as any emergency issues that may arise with your rental property. When it comes to ways to maximize your investment’s potential, look no further than Bay Property Management Group. Give us a call today for a free no-obligation rental analysis.