Part of being a successful landlord is adhering to regulations and all federal, state, and local laws. This can be a complex and confusing task for even the most seasoned investors. However, failing to comply means facing potential fines, loss of license, or expensive litigation. Continue reading below as we highlight the rental property compliance needs and basic responsibilities of Virginia landlords.
Essential Rental Property Compliance in Virginia
No matter the location of your investment property, there will be essential rules and laws every landlord must follow. This helps to ensure both renters and landlords are protected from unsafe or fraudulent rental practices. So, let’s review what rental property compliance landlords need in Virginia below –
Applicable Rental Laws
In Virginia, two important laws govern the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. In addition, any landlord, regardless of location, must adhere to strict Fair Housing guidelines. Check out a summary of these rental property compliance laws below.
- The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act – The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act applies to landlords renting more than 2 units. This outlines basic definitions, principles, and regulations that apply to a rental business.
- Virginia’s Uniform Statewide Building Code – This applies to any and all rental units within the state of Virginia. The statewide building codes dictate standards when building, repairing, or renovating properties, including rentals.
- The Fair Housing Act – Fair Housing Laws protect renters across the country from housing discrimination based on a list of “protected classes.” In Virginia, landlords cannot legally refuse a renter based on – race, color, religion, national origin, sex, elderliness, familial status, disability, source of funds, sexual orientation, gender identity, or veteran status. So, it is essential to create a standard list of qualifications that comply with fair housing and stick to it for every renter – every time!
Rental Property Licensing
Many jurisdictions require rental owners to obtain a rental license before accepting tenants into their investment property. However, in Virginia, rental properties are seen as any other type of small business. Therefore, owners need to obtain a basic business license before accepting tenants.
While this may seem excessive if you only have a few units, it is essential. If, for example, you need to take a tenant to court for eviction or other dispute, landlords must show proof of proper licensing.
Lead Inspections for Rental Properties
For homes built after 1978, lead paint is not an issue as it was banned from residential use in that year. However, properties built before 1978, especially before 1950, may still contain this potentially dangerous substance.
Some states require landlords to submit properties to a lead inspection before renting. That said, Virginia does not have these requirements. However, property owners need to provide certain information and disclosures to their tenants to prevent costly liability should an issue arise. These disclosures include –
- An EPA-approved lead hazard information pamphlet
- Written disclosure of any knowledge of the presence of lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards, including any applicable reports
- Copy of a signed written acknowledgment of receipt of the necessary disclosures
Legal Disclosures in Virginia
In addition to the lead disclosures above, landlords in Virginia must make additional disclosures as part of their rental property compliance. Failing to include any of these could result in fines, disputes, or costly litigation. Therefore, always read requirements carefully and ensure your rental and lease fully comply. Check out these essential disclosures below –
- Presence of Mold – Landlords must disclose evidence or knowledge of any mold in a rental property.
- Defective Drywall – If the property contains any defective drywall, the landlord must inform the tenant.
- Lead-based Paint – For homes built before 1978, landlords must provide EPA-approved information about potential lead concentrations and contaminants.
- Authorized Agents – Disclose any relevant contact information for any parties that own or manage the property.
- Location Adjacent to Military Institution – If a rental property is near a “noise zone” or “potential accident zone” such as a military base, landlords must inform the tenant.
- Methamphetamine Manufacturing – If the owner knows that the rental was previously used for manufacturing methamphetamine, this needs to be disclosed.
Additional Owner Responsibilities Every Landlord Needs to Know
Besides the rental property compliance above, landlords in Virginia have many other responsibilities. While you have expectations of your tenants, they too have expectations of you. That said, continue reading below for a few more landlord responsibilities regarding rental properties and tenant relations.
- Implied Warranty of Habitability
- Tenant and Community Safety
- Essential Repairs and Responsiveness
- Adhere to State Rent and Security Deposit Guidelines
- Follow Procedures for Lawful Termination of Tenancy and Eviction
Implied Warranty of Habitability
It should go without saying, but tenants deserve to live in a safe and habitable housing unit. That said, by law, landlords are legally obligated to maintain the livable condition of their rental property. In Virginia, this is known as an “implied warranty of habitability.” Some of these obligations include but are not limited to the following –
- Maintain the structural integrity of the dwelling
- Promptly address any repair concerns
- Ensure heat, electric, and hot/cold water facilities are in working order
- Proactively maintain a pest-free living environment
- Comply with all state and local building requirements, inspections, or codes
- Ensure living conditions are free of safety hazards
While maintaining is safe and habitable rental property is essential for tenants, it is also an important part of keeping your rental looking its best. Besides, failing to take care of the unit in Virginia opens up the possibility of tenants withholding rent.
Tenant and Community Safety
Every tenant deserves to feel safe and secure in their new rental home. For landlords, this could begin with ensuring the home’s locks are sturdy and functioning properly. While not required, if your budget allows, consider adding a security system, video doorbell, or motion-activated lighting for added peace of mind.
In addition to protecting the tenant in the home, landlords have an obligation to neighbors in the community. Every owner should put each tenant through a thorough screening process as part of the application process. Typically, screening involves income verification, rental history check, creditworthiness, and landlord references.
However, another important factor is criminal background. These reports help owners see relevant criminal activity that may put themselves, their property, or neighbors at risk. Currently, criminal background is not a protected category under Fair Housing Laws. Instead, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development advises landlords to consider the severity and type of crime along with how much time has passed since the offense when making their decision.
Essential Repairs and Responsiveness
It goes without saying that repairs are an inevitable factor in running a rental property business. Not only are they important to keep your tenants happy, but it also ensures your investment property retains its value. Failing to make timely repairs can lead to more extensive, and in turn costly, damage. That said, the consequences do end there.
When a landlord does not complete necessary repairs and the home becomes uninhabitable, the tenant may be able to withhold rental payment. In some jurisdictions, tenants can hire a third party and deduct repair costs from the rent.
So, both prompt response and timely action are critical to avoiding tenant disputes. In general, an acceptable response time is 24 hours. This allows time to find the appropriate vendor and give the tenants adequate notice of entry to complete a repair. However, for non-emergency or minor maintenance needs, 48 hours is acceptable.
Either way, communication with your tenants is key. Respond as quickly as possible to acknowledge their concern and let them know the steps you are taking to correct the problem. That way, even if it takes a little longer for any reason, the tenant still knows you are working on fixing it, and their well-being is important to you.
Adhere to State Rent and Security Deposit Guidelines
Each state has specific guidelines regarding deposit limits, rent increases, and rent collection. As a landlord, it is your responsibility to ensure the policies outlined in your lease agreement comply with these regulations. Let’s look at a few examples of these laws in Virginia below –
- To terminate tenancy for non-payment, owners must give tenants 5 days to either pay or move. If they do not comply, the landlord can seek eviction.
- For bounced checks, the state limits the penalty landlords can charge to a maximum of $50.00.
- Virginia restricts the maximum security deposit to 2 months’ rent
- Upon move-out, the landlord has 45 days to return all or a portion of the tenant’s deposit
- Any withholding of deposit funds should include a written itemized list to be sent to the tenant
Follow Procedures for Lawful Termination of Tenancy and Eviction
While landlords make every effort to find the best tenant, eviction is sometimes needed. That said, landlords must strictly follow any applicable eviction procedures set forth by the state. Also, why the landlord seeks to terminate the tenancy matters. For example, property owners in Virginia can immediately terminate tenants who violated the lease through a criminal act. Beyond that, there are specific notice requirements to follow in order to have a successful eviction outcome.
Although the eviction process can take time, each step is important in the legal process. At no time should landlords attempt to take matters into their own hands. Never retaliate against a tenant who makes a lawful complaint and do not try to remove a tenant by any means other than a court eviction.
How to Comply with Landlord-Tenant Law Without the Hassle
Rental property compliance, wherever the location, is a complex issue for landlords. After all, failing to comply could result in costly fines or even a lawsuit which could ruin your financial future. Thankfully, there is an easier way to ensure lawful compliance and get the most from your investment – hire local property management in Leesburg.
Bay Property Management Group has the expertise to guide owners through every step of the rental process, from initial inspection to ongoing maintenance, marketing, leasing, and financial reporting. Our team has offices throughout Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Southern Pennsylvania to serve the needs of single and multi-family property owners. Give us a call today to learn more about the benefits of full-service rental management.