Learning how to rent your Virginia property is no simple task. Between following local regulations, handling repairs, and marketing to find the ideal tenant – a great deal of time is involved. Navigating these processes to get the most return on investment is key to your success as a landlord. So, follow along with us below as we discuss how to become a landlord in Virginia and top tips for preparing your investment property for the rental market.
What does it take to be a Landlord in Virginia?
As with landlords in any location, property owners in Virginia must follow federal, state, and local laws regarding the rental industry. In fact, failing to comply with any applicable regulations could land the owner in legal or financial trouble. So, check out the list below of must-do items for every Virginia landlord.
- Adhere to All State Specific Regulations
- Disclose Legally Required Items
- Follow All Fair Housing Laws
- Comply with State Security Deposit Limits and Rules
- Provide Safe and Habitable Housing
- Use a Legally Binding Rental Agreement
- Right of Entry
- Terminating or Evicting a Tenant
Adhere to All State Specific Regulations
State and local laws protect both landlords and tenants, giving each some legal responsibility. For landlords, it is essential to familiarize yourself with key requirements in your area that govern everything from how to handle the security deposit to steps for a lawful eviction. Check out a few examples below for Virginia landlords –
- Owners must give the tenant a minimum of five days to pay the rent or move before filing or pursuing eviction.
- Virginia landlords may not raise the rent in a retaliatory or discriminatory manner.
- Under Virginia law, owners must provide 30 days’ notice to raise the rental rate or change any other lease terms.
- Landlords in Virginia can charge a return check fee, but it is capped at a maximum of $50.
- For more information on specific landlord-tenant laws in Virginia, check out the state’s website.
Disclose Legally Required Items
Each state or even local jurisdiction requires landlords to disclose certain health or safety information to potential tenants. Also, failing to do so could result in hefty fines or legal ramifications. In Virginia, these disclosures are as follows –
- Mold – If there is evidence or knowledge of mold in a rental property, the landlord must disclose this to the incoming tenant.
- Defective Drywall – If any parts of the property contain defective drywall, landlords need to inform the tenant.
- Lead-based Paint – For any property constructed before 1978, the owner must provide information about potential lead concentrations and contaminants.
- Authorized Agents – Tenants are entitled to know the relevant contact information of any parties involved with owning or managing the property.
- Location Adjacent to Military Institution – Landlords need to let tenants know if the property is near a “noise zone” or “potential accident zone” such as a military base or installation.
- Methamphetamine Manufacturing – Landlords must tell tenants if they have actual knowledge that the property or unit was previously used for manufacturing methamphetamine.
Follow All Fair Housing Laws
Fair Housing Laws protect individuals and families from discrimination based on a variety of “protected classes.” In Virginia, landlords can legally refuse to rent to a tenant based on negative credit history, a pattern of non-payment, or poor prior rental history. However, landlords cannot discriminate and deny tenants access to a home they are qualified for based on any of the following reasons –
Fair Housing Protected Classes in Virginia
- Race, color, religion, national origin, sex, elderliness, familial status, disability, source of funds, sexual orientation, gender identity, or veteran status.
Comply with State Security Deposit Limits and Rules
To help allay the most common source of landlord-tenant disputes, Virginia has specific laws regarding the security deposit. Following these processes and rules as a landlord is vital to avoiding disputes, adding fines, and possible litigation. For instance, the maximum amount a landlord can legally charge as a deposit is two times the monthly rent. Additionally, once the tenant vacates, the landlord has 45 days to return or notify intent to withhold the deposit for any valid reason. Also, ensure you properly document repair receipts and notify the tenant in writing of any charges withheld from their deposit.
Pro Tip: Implement a thorough move-in and move-out process with written and photographic inspections to document the damage. This will help determine what is normal wear and tear and what could be tenant damage.
Provide Safe and Habitable Housing
Most states, including Virginia, have an “implied warranty of habitability.” That means landlords must maintain a safe and habitable property. While handling repairs promptly is good business practice anyway, this law specifically targets any issues that may threaten the health or safety of the tenant.
Use a Legally Binding Rental Agreement
The rental lease agreement is the single most important document in the landlord-tenant relationship. Furthermore, it includes the rights, restrictions, and responsibilities for both parties. Typically, issues come from a landlord either intentionally or unintentionally inserting lease clauses that are illegal or discriminatory. Therefore, it is critical to use a comprehensive lease that a qualified attorney has reviewed.
Right of Entry
A landlord may own the rental property, but that does not mean they can show up whenever they like. Signing the lease affords the tenant a right to privacy. Therefore, landlords must provide adequate notice if they need to inspect or enter the property in any capacity other than an emergency. In Virginia, landlords must provide a minimum of 24 hours notice before entering.
Terminating or Evicting a Tenant
No landlord wants to think about having to evict a problem tenant. However, it does happen and when it does, following the letter of the law is key. Every state has specific rules regarding the length of notice needed and lawful reasons for the termination. The most important thing to remember in dealing with evictions is never to attempt a “self-help eviction.” Any retaliatory, discriminatory, or intimidating efforts are unlawful and could land the landlord in significant trouble. The best defense against potential eviction is a solid applicant screening process and detailed record keeping.
How to Get Your Property Rent Ready
Once you understand the legal requirements of becoming a landlord in Virginia, it is time to shift focus to preparing to rent out your property. That said, there is a difference between getting a property ready for market and having it rent-ready. Continue reading below as we delve a little deeper into everything a landlord needs to be rent-ready!
Market Ready vs. Rent Ready
Marketing a property means that the unit is in showable condition but still undergoing some minor work or repairs. However, being rent-ready indicate the property repairs and inspection are complete along with any compliance items and professional cleaning.
Tips for Making a Property Rent Ready
- Start with a Thorough Inspection and Carefully Plan Repairs – Renting a property requires a wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor, thorough inspection. Only then can a landlord gauge how much and how long it will take to get the unit ready for a tenant. Then, from the inspection sheet, consolidate repairs. This allows for easier communication with vendors so that nothing is overlooked or forgotten. Also, it is important to decide what is fixable and what may need to be replaced. For example, if an old fridge will cost a hundred in repair fees, you are better off investing that money into a new applicant.
- Curb Appeal Matters – While the inside of the home matters to renters, outside provides the all-important first impression. So, use the exterior as an inviting way to entice tenants to schedule a showing. Depending on the time of year, ensure the grass is trimmed, hedges are nicely shaped, and the yard is free of debris. Additionally, if your property looks a little drab, consider power washing, repainting, or simply adding some pops of color with seasonal flowers.
- Go with Professional Cleaning – Tenants rightfully expect to move into a clean, odor-free home. As a landlord, one of the best ways to provide this is through a professional cleaning service. While you may think, “I can clean myself to save a buck,” – think again. A professional cleaner gets many of the nooks and crannies owners may miss. Besides, they have the staff, supplies, and expertise to complete the job efficiently. For an owner, cleaning an entire home could take valuable hours that are better spent on other management tasks.
The Best Way to Manage and Rent Your Virginia Property
Taking property from closing to tenant move-in can be a simple process to a very complex endeavor. If you need an expert to help walk you through the property inspection or a marketing team to maximize every lead when you rent your Virginia property – professional property management is the answer.
Bay Property Management Group services all of your property management needs in Leesburg and throughout Northern Virginia. Our dedicated team partners with owners through the entire rental process, but we do not stop there. Once the unit is rented, your experienced property manager steps in to take over the day-to-day operations. Therefore, freeing up the owner’s time while providing peace of mind. For more information on our approach to full-service property management in Leesburg, give us a call today.