In the realm of property management, safeguarding the assets and interests of property owners is paramount. Understanding the legal framework is crucial, and the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (VRLTA), outlined in Sections 55.1-1200 through 55.1-1262 of the Code of Virginia, plays a central role in establishing the rights and responsibilities of both residential landlords and tenants in the Commonwealth. A pivotal requirement, as per Section § 55.1-1204 of the VRLTA, mandates landlords to furnish tenants with a Statement of Tenant Rights and Responsibilities. This document serves as a comprehensive summary, outlining the rights and duties of tenants under the VRLTA. Both parties are required to sign this statement, obtainable from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development per Section § 36-139 of the Virginia Code. Notably, landlords are prohibited from initiating legal action against a tenant for lease violations until the tenant has been provided with this essential document. This procedural step is of utmost significance, especially in situations where unforeseen circumstances may arise. Understanding and adhering to these legal requirements is essential for the smooth management of rental properties.
During a recent meeting with another local property manager in Virginia Beach, we discovered that although they boasted experience as a Virginia Beach property manager, there was a significant gap in their knowledge regarding the latest updates in Virginia landlord-tenant laws. It became evident that they were not informed about the crucial requirement outlined in Section § 55.1-1204 of the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act—the Statement of Tenant Rights. This oversight was surprising, as the tenants are legally obligated to sign this statement along with their lease. Recognizing the importance of staying current with statutes and legal updates, we understand that property owners in Virginia Beach have numerous choices when selecting a property manager. Opting for a property manager who lacks awareness of these essential regulations poses potential risks for both the property manager and property owner alike. As a dedicated property manager and property management company, our primary responsibility is to safeguard the assets and interests of property owners. We prioritize staying abreast of legal nuances to ensure a comprehensive understanding of all obligations, thereby mitigating risks and fostering a secure environment for property owners in the Virginia Beach area. Choosing a property manager who is well-versed in the statutes is not just a preference; it's a prudent decision for a smooth and legally sound property management experience.
The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (VRLTA), Sections 55.1-1200 through 55.1-1262 of the Code of Virginia, establishes the rights and obligations of residential landlords and tenants in the Commonwealth, the courts can enforce those rights and obligations.
Section § 55.1-1204 of the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (VRLTA) requires landlords to provide tenants with a Statement of Tenant Rights and Responsibilities. This statement summarizes a tenant’s rights and responsibilities under the VRLTA. Both the landlord and tenant must sign this form, which is available from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development pursuant to Section § 36-139 of the Virginia Code. A landlord cannot file or pursue a lawsuit against a tenant for a lease violation until the landlord has provided the tenant with the statement of tenant rights and responsibilities. This is extremely important as often things do not go as planned.
The statement of rights and responsibilities included the following:
Applications: Tenants may be charged a nonrefundable application fee of no more than $50 (not including third party costs for a background check) and a refundable application deposit. If the tenant does not rent the unit, the application deposit must be returned, minus any actual costs or damages. (§55.1-1203)
Written lease: Under the VRLTA (Virginia Landlord Tenant Act), a landlord is required to provide a tenant a written lease. If a landlord fails to do so, the VRLTA still protects a tenant by establishing a statutory lease between landlord and tenant for 12 months not subject to automatic renewal. (§55.1-1204)
Disclosure: A landlord must reveal certain information to the tenant, including any visible evidence of mold (§55.1-1215), the name and address of the owner or property manager (§55.1-1216) and notice of sale or foreclosure of the property. (§§55.1-1216, 1237). Security Deposit: A landlord may require a security deposit of up to two monthʼs rent. Within five days of move in the tenant has a right to object to anything in the move-in report. The tenant also has a right to be present at a move-out inspection, which must be made within 72 hours of delivery of possession. (§§55.1-1214, 1226)
Receipts: Upon request, a tenant is entitled to a written receipt of rent paid by cash or money order. Upon request, a tenant is entitled to a written statement of all charges and payments over the past 12 months. (§55.1-1204(D), (I)) Last Updated by DHCD on August 9, 2023
Privacy: A landlord may not release information about a tenant without consent, except under certain conditions, which are generally when tenant information is already public. (§55.1-1209)
Fit and Habitable Premises: A tenant has the right to a fit and habitable rental unit in accordance with the Uniform Statewide Building Code. The landlord must make all repairs needed to keep premises fit and habitable. (§55.1-1220) To enforce the right to get repairs, a tenant must be current in rent, give the landlord written notice and wait a reasonable period. If repairs are not made, a tenant can file a Tenantʼs Assertion in General District Court. This must be filed no later than five days after rent is due. There is no rent withholding in Virginia, except under repair and deduct. (§55.1-1244)
Uninhabitable Dwelling Unit at Move In: If, at the beginning of the tenancy, there exists a fire hazard or a serious threat to the life, health or safety of the tenant (such as an infestation of rodents or a lack of heat, hot or cold running water, electricity, or adequate sewage disposal facilities), the tenant may terminate the rental agreement and receive a full refund of all deposits and rent paid to the landlord. To terminate the agreement and request a refund, the tenant must provide a written notice of termination no later than seven days after the tenancy started.
If, upon receipt of notice, the landlord agrees such hazardous condition exists, the landlord must refund all deposits and rent paid within 15 business days of being notified or of the tenant vacating the unit, whichever occurs later. (§55.1-1234.1).
The landlord may, in a written notice provided to the tenant, state that the termination is
unjustified and refuse to accept the tenant’s termination of the lease. A tenant who has
vacated the unit (or never moved in initially) may then challenge the landlord’s refusal in
court. The prevailing party shall be entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees (§55.1-
Repair and Deduct: If an issue on the property affects life, health, safety, or seriously affects habitability, and a landlord has not begun to address it within 14 days after written notice from the tenant, the tenant may contract to have the repair done by a licensed contractor at a cost of not more than $1,500, or one monthʼs rent, whichever is more. The tenant may deduct the actual cost of the repair from the rent. The tenant must send the landlord an itemized invoice and a receipt for payment to the contractor for the work, along with any payment of remaining rent owed. (§55.1-1244.1) Last Updated by DHCD on August 9, 2023
Notification of Rent Increase: If a lease contains an option to renew or an automatic renewal provision, a tenant must be notified in writing of a rent increase at least 60 days before the end of the lease term. This only applies when a landlord owns more than four rental units or more than 10% percent in more than four rental units in the Commonwealth. (§55.1-1204) (K)
Eviction: A landlord may not evict a tenant without following the court eviction process. The landlord first sends a written notice and next the landlord files an unlawful detainer lawsuit. The landlord must get a court order of possession, followed by a Writ of Eviction that is served by the Sheriff. (§§55.1-1245, 1252). A tenant not getting paid due to a federal shutdown of 14 or more days can get an eviction lawsuit for nonpayment of rent postponed for 60 days. (§44-209)
Unlawful Exclusion, Interruption of Essential Services, and Unlivable Premises: A Landlord may not unlawfully exclude a tenant from the premises, interrupt an essential service, or make the unit unlivable. If this happens, the tenant may sue the landlord in General District Court and get an initial court hearing in five calendar days. At this hearing, a court may order the landlord to give the property back to the tenant, resume the essential service, or fix the conditions that make the unit unlivable. The court may also hold a second hearing 10 days after the first hearing and may find that the tenant is entitled to actual damages, statutory damages, and reasonable attorney’s fees. (§55.1-1243.1)
Redemption (Pay & Stay): After an unlawful detainer lawsuit for nonpayment of rent is filed, a tenant has the right to pay to a zero balance on or before the court date and have the lawsuit dismissed. After a court issues a judgment of possession, a tenant has the right to pay to a zero balance up to 48 hours before the Sheriff's eviction and have the eviction cancelled. If the landlord has 5 or more rentals, a tenant may use these rights at any time. If the landlord has 4 or fewer rentals, the landlord may limit the tenant’s use of these rights to once during the lease period if the landlord first sends a written notice. (§55.1-1250)
Tenant Responsibilities Rent: Unless the lease says otherwise, rent is due in equal payments each month on or before the first of each month. (§55.1-1204) Last Updated by DHCD on August 9, 2023
Late Fees: If rent is not paid on time, the tenant must pay a late fee if the lease requires one. A late fee can be no more than 10% of the monthly rent, or 10% of the unpaid balance, whichever is less. (§55.1-1204(E))
Insurance: A tenant may be required to have and pay for renters’ insurance. A tenant also may be required to have and pay for damage insurance and/or a security deposit, but the total of both the damage insurance premiums and the security deposit may not exceed two monthsʼ rent. (§§55.1-1206, 1208)
Access: A tenant must allow a landlord access to the unit at reasonable times and for practical purposes, such as maintenance, inspection, or to provide services. A tenant must allow access unless the landlords request is unreasonable. Unless impractical due to an emergency, the landlord must give 72-hoursʼ notice of maintenance. If the tenant requests maintenance, notice is not required. (§55.1-1229)
Maintain Fit and Habitable Premises: The tenant must keep the rental unit as clean and safe as conditions allow and in accordance with the Uniform Statewide Building Code. The tenant must promptly notify the landlord of visible mold and use reasonable efforts to prevent moisture and mold. The tenant must promptly notify the landlord of insects or pests and must not be at fault in failing to prevent insects or pests. (§55.1-1227)
Fair Housing: The tenant may have a right to file a fair housing complaint if the landlord or property manager violates the Virginia Fair Housing Act. (§36-96.1 et seq, HUD FHEO-2020-1
In the dynamic landscape of property management, safeguarding the interests of property owners in Virginia Beach is a non-negotiable priority. The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (VRLTA) stands as the cornerstone, delineating the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants throughout the Commonwealth. Section § 55.1-1204, a pivotal requirement within the VRLTA, mandates the provision of a Statement of Tenant Rights and Responsibilities to ensure a transparent understanding between parties. This essential document, obtainable through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, serves as a linchpin in legal proceedings. Surprisingly, during a recent encounter with a local property manager, we uncovered a knowledge gap concerning this crucial requirement. This revelation underscores the critical need for property managers to stay abreast of the latest legal updates to protect both landlords and tenants. Property owners in Virginia Beach are presented with an array of choices, and selecting a manager well-versed in these statutes becomes imperative.
At Abrams Realty, we distinguish ourselves as your premier choice for property management in Virginia Beach. Our experienced and knowledgeable property managers are well-versed in the intricacies of the VRLTA and other pertinent regulations. When you choose Abrams Realty, you're not just hiring a property management company; you're gaining a dedicated partner committed to safeguarding your assets and navigating the complexities of the ever-evolving legal landscape. We prioritize legal compliance and stay informed to ensure a secure and smooth property management experience for our clients in the vibrant Virginia Beach area. Opting for Abrams Realty isn't just a preference—it's a strategic decision for a robust and legally sound property management journey.