Virginia Eviction Notices
Virginia eviction notice, more commonly known as the “Notice to Quit,” is a document that a landlord will serve on a tenant to give them notice of the impending termination of their lease agreement. The amount of notice given varies from immediate (no notice) to thirty (30) days’ notice, depending on the reason for terminating the lease. If the tenant hasn’t paid rent or has committed a remediable lease violation, they will be given a fixed period of time to pay rent or “cure” the violation. The tenant must comply with the landlord’s demands or move off the property by the date indicated on the notice. Otherwise, the landlord can file a lawsuit against the tenant and have them evicted by court order.
How to Evict a Tenant (Process)
Attempts by the landlord to lock out the tenant or shut off utilities, known as “self-help” evictions, are not legal in the State of Virginia. The only way that a landlord can evict a tenant is by filing an eviction lawsuit (called an “Unlawful Detainer” case) and obtaining a court order (“Writ of Possession”). Before starting any legal action, the landlord must give the tenant the legal number of days’ notice and terminate the lease or rental agreement. The two (2) most common reasons for eviction are nonpayment of rent, and failure to adhere to the lease agreement. If the tenant owes rent or has committed a curable lease violation, they can retain their tenancy by paying the full amount owed or by fixing the violation within the legal timeframe.
Step 1 – Notice to Quit
The landlord must serve the tenant with an eviction notice. If the tenant has failed to pay rent, they must receive a Five (5) Day Notice to Pay or Quit. This notice allows the tenant five (5) days to either pay the past due rent or vacate the rental unit. If the tenant has committed a lease violation, they are required to be served with the Twenty-One/Thirty (21/30) Day Notice to Comply or Quit. This notice gives the tenant twenty-one (21) days to cure their lease violations. If the tenant does not comply with the notice within that period of time, they must vacate thirty (30) days from the date that the notice was served. In the event that the lease violation is “incurable” (i.e., serious damage has been done to the rental property), the tenant can be served an unconditional Thirty (30) Day Notice to Quit for Non-Compliance. If the tenant has engaged in criminal or illegal activities on the premises, the landlord may serve them with an Immediate Notice to Quit. Month-to-month or “at-will” tenancies can be terminated for any reason, however, the tenant must receive a minimum of thirty (30) days’ notice (Lease Termination Letter).
Step 2 – Serve the Notice to Quit
Virginia State law states that in order for proper notice to be given to the tenant, an eviction notice must be written, and said notice must be seen by the tenant. Therefore, the best way for the landlord to serve the notice is in-person or by hiring a process server. Alternatively, the landlord can send the notice by mail to the tenant’s address. The landlord must also make a copy of the notice and complete the “proof of service” portion of it after the notice has been served on the tenant.
Step 3 – Summons for Unlawful Detainer
If the tenant does not move out, pay the full amount of rent owed, or cure their lease violation by the end of the notice period, the next step is for the landlord to file an eviction action in court. In order to open a court case against the tenant, the landlord must fill out and file a Summons for Unlawful Detainer. In the Summons, the landlord will provide the reason for the eviction and the amount of rent/damages sought. Once the document has been filed, the court will supply a date and time on the Summons that the tenant must appear in court to contest the lawsuit.
Step 4 – File Forms With Clerk
Once the Summons has been filled out, the landlord must take it, along with a copy of the Notice to Quit and any supporting documentation (payment history, proof of violations, complaint records, etc.) to be filed with the Civil Division of the General District Court. The case must be filed in the county where the rental property is located. Furthermore, the landlord will be charged for the cost of filing the lawsuit and serving the tenant, fees which must be paid when the case is filed. The court fees will vary depending on the case, location, and the amount of rent/damages that the landlord is seeking (see court fee calculator).
Step 5 – Serve the Summons for Unlawful Detainer
Once the landlord has filed the Summons, the court will request the Sheriff’s department to serve a copy on the tenant. The Summons will inform the tenant of why they are being evicted, the amount of rent/damages being sought, and the date and time that they must appear in court (called the “first return date”). If the tenant presents themselves in court on the “first return date” and denies the allegations made by the landlord, a trial date will be set for the case to be heard. If the tenant does not appear on the first return date, the Judge will most likely grant a judgment in the landlord’s favor.
Step 6 – Attend Trial
If the case goes to trial, both parties must be in attendance at the court on the date of the trial. The Judge will consider both sides of the case before coming to a verdict. If the landlord wins the case, the tenant will be ordered to vacate the rental property and pay any rent, damages, and court costs that the court awards to the landlord. In the event that the judgment is made in favor of the tenant, they will be able to continue their tenancy.
Step 7 – Writ of Possession
To initiate the physical eviction of a tenant who refuses to move off the property, the landlord must file a Request for Writ of Possession with the court. This request can be filed up to one (1) year after the judgment has been made. The court will forward a Writ of Possession to the Sheriff, who will then execute it within fifteen (15) to thirty (30) days from the date that it was issued by the court. The tenant will usually be given seventy-two (72) hours’ notice to vacate or be forcefully removed.
Step 8 – Removal of the Tenant
There are two types of evictions; the twenty-four (24) hour lock change, and the “full” eviction. If the landlord decides to do a twenty-four (24) hour lock change eviction, they must hire a locksmith to change all of the exterior locks, and give the tenant twenty-four (24) hours to remove their possessions from the rental unit. Once this period of time has elapsed, any possessions of the tenant still left on the premises become the property of the landlord. In a “full” eviction, in addition to hiring a locksmith to switch the locks out, the landlord must hire workers to remove the possessions of the tenant from the rental property. The Sheriff will oversee the eviction process, and may require the landlord to purchase moving boxes and pay for a moving truck to transport the possessions of the tenant.