Virginia Eviction Laws: Process & Timelines for 2024

Like elsewhere in the country, Virginia eviction rates are on the rise, with almost 40,000 filings in the first quarter of 2023 alone. For landlords and property managers, eviction is a difficult but sometimes necessary part of doing business.

However, with a firm understanding of how the Virginia eviction process works, it may be possible to navigate the process in a way that respects tenants' rights and protects your property and business.

Here's what you need to know about Virginia eviction laws.

What Are The Eviction Laws In Virginia?

In Virginia, evictions are governed by specific laws that must be followed. If landlords do not adhere to the legal eviction process as outlined in the Code of Virginia, the eviction may be considered illegal.

An illegal eviction could make the landlord liable for damages and attorney fees.

Here are some things that landlords should not do when attempting to evict a tenant in Virginia.

Self-Help Evictions

According to Virginia eviction laws, it's illegal for a landlord to carry out a self-help eviction. This refers to a situation where the landlord attempts to evict the tenant without going through the legal process.

This could involve changing the locks, turning off utilities, or physically removing the tenant or their belongings. Always go through the appropriate legal channels.

What Are The Eviction Laws In Virginia?

No Proper Notice

The landlord must give the tenant a written notice before they can start the eviction process. For example, for unpaid rent, the landlord must give a 5-day pay or quit notice. If the tenant doesn't correct the issue within that time, the landlord can then file for eviction.

Retaliatory Evictions

A landlord cannot evict a tenant as retaliation for exercising a legal right. For instance, if a tenant complains to a governmental agency about a violation of housing codes, a landlord cannot evict the tenant in response to the complaint.

Discriminatory Evictions

Virginia eviction laws state that it’s illegal to evict a tenant based on race, religion, nationality, gender, age, family status, disability, or other protected statuses under federal and Virginia law.

Eviction For Nonpayment During A Declared Emergency

If a state of emergency is declared, as happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, specific rules may temporarily prohibit evictions for nonpayment of rent. It's crucial to stay updated with any temporary rules or regulations that could affect the eviction process.

Virginia Eviction Laws Quick Reference Table

Problem Virginia Eviction Laws Say… Which Eviction Notice Templates To Use
Tenant has not paid rent. You may file an unlawful detainer after giving the tenant 5 days’ notice.
VA Code § 55.1-1245 (2022)
5-day Notice to Quit
The lease has expired or there is no lease. You may file an unlawful detainer after giving the tenant prior notice.
VA Code § 55.1-1253 (2022)
30-day Notice to Quit
Tenant has violated terms of the lease. If applicable, give the tenant notice to fix the issue within 21 days or move out within 30 days. For incurable violations, give them 30 day’s notice before filing.
VA Code § 55.1-1245 (2022)
21/30-Day Notice to Quit
30-Day Notice to Quit
Tenant is conducting illegal activity on the premises. You may immediately file an unlawful detainer. No notice required.
VA Code § 55.1-1245 (2022)
Notice to Quit - Illegal Activity

How To Evict Someone In Virginia: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Establish grounds for eviction.

You must have a lawful reason for evicting your tenant, such as nonpayment of rent, violation of the lease agreement, or the end of a lease term.

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Lease violations
  • Expired/no lease
  • Illegal activity

Step 2: Give tenant written notice of your intent to evict.

Once you have a legitimate reason, Virginia eviction laws say you should provide the tenant with a written notice. For nonpayment of rent, a 5-Day Pay or Quit Notice is required.

If the tenant has violated the lease in another way, a 30-Day Cure or Quit Notice is generally used. This notice gives the tenant a specified amount of time to correct the issue or leave the property.

How To Evict Someone In Virginia

Step 3: File an unlawful detainer action in General District Court.

If the tenant fails to correct the issue or leave within the specified time, you can then file an unlawful detainer action in the General District Court. This is a legal complaint that formally begins the eviction process.

Step 4: Attend the eviction hearing and judgment.

A court hearing will be scheduled, where you and the tenant will have the opportunity to present your cases. If the court rules in your favor, they will issue a judgment of possession, which allows the landlord to take back possession of the property.

Step 5: Give tenant 10 days to appeal, then request a Writ of Eviction.

Once a judgment for possession has been issued, the tenant has 10 days to appeal. If they do not appeal, you may request a Writ of Eviction after that 10 day period has passed.

This authorizes the sheriff to move forward with eviction. The sheriff will give the tenant an eviction notice, which specifies the time and date of eviction.

Step 6: Regain control of the property.

Virginia eviction laws require the sheriff to intervene on your behalf once the judge rules in your favor. If the tenant has not yet vacated on eviction day, the sheriff will forcibly remove them and their property.

How Long Does an Eviction Take in Virginia?

The eviction process in Virginia can vary in length based on several factors including the reason for eviction, court schedules, and tenant responses. Here’s a breakdown of the typical timeline:

Stage Duration Description
Notice Period
Nonpayment of Rent 5 days Tenant is given 5 days to pay rent or vacate.
Lease Violations 30 days or more Tenant has 30 days or longer to remedy the violation or vacate.
Filing and Court Proceedings
Court Scheduling A few weeks after filing Court hearing is usually set within weeks of the lawsuit being filed.
Hearing and Judgment During scheduled hearing Judge reviews the case and issues a judgment for possession if valid.
Post-Judgment Process
Writ of Possession Varies Landlord requests a writ of possession; timing depends on court processing.
Execution of Writ Several days to weeks Tenant removal by law enforcement; timeline depends on their availability.

Notice Period

The first step in the eviction process is issuing the correct notice to the tenant. The duration of this notice period depends on the reason for eviction:

  • For Nonpayment of Rent: The notice period is typically 5 days.
  • For Lease Violations: The notice period can be 30 days or longer, depending on the specific violation.

Filing and Court Proceedings

If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the landlord can proceed to file a lawsuit. After filing:

  • Court Scheduling: The court hearing is usually scheduled within a few weeks of the lawsuit being filed.
  • Hearing and Judgment: During the hearing, the judge reviews the case and, if the landlord's claim is valid, issues a judgment for possession.

Post-Judgment Process

Once a judgment for possession is granted:

  • Writ of Possession: The landlord can request a writ of possession from the court. This document authorizes the sheriff or constable to remove the tenant.
  • Execution of Writ: The actual removal of the tenant can take several days to weeks, depending on local law enforcement's availability.

Overall Timeline

Considering all these steps, the entire eviction process in Virginia can take from a few weeks to a couple of months. It's important to note that the process can be extended due to legal complications, tenant defenses, or court delays.

How Long Does An Eviction Stay On Your Record?

While an eviction itself does not show up on your credit report, any late rent payments and associated fees can remain on your credit report for a maximum of seven years.

Need Help With The Eviction Process? Eviction Services Are Available

Between the day-to-day demands of property management and the time and cost associated with eviction suits, it can help to offload things like rent collection, legal notices, and retaining counsel.

Hemlane can help you receive the rent you are owed while minimizing costly court fees. Explore our eviction services and on-demand delinquency management today.

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