What is the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act?

Did you know that the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (VRLTA) may not apply to you? If you are a tenant, the VRLTA applies to you if you rent a unit within an apartment complex or if you rent a single-family home, townhouse or condo, it will only apply if your landlord specifically incorporated it into your written lease or your landlord rents at least four units. If the VRLTA doesn’t apply to you, the Virginia common law governs your tenancy.

The common law Virginia Landlord and Tenant Act is Chapter 13, Title 55 of the Virginia Code. The VRLTA is Sections 55-248.2 through 55.248.40 of the Virginia Code. Although there are some similarities between the VRLTA and the common law, there are many differences. Most likely, if you have an oral or verbal lease agreement, the VRLTA does not apply to you. Instead, as a landlord or tenant bound by an oral agreement, the common law covers you.

The VRLTA contains several important provisions to both landlords and tenants. Landlords covered by the VRLTA cannot collect security deposits exceeding two months of rent and may not retain them for more than 13 months. Furthermore, although the common law doesn’t require landlords to place their tenants’ security deposits into interest bearing accounts, the VRLTA does. Once you vacate your property, the VRLTA typically requires landlords to conduct post-occupancy walk-throughs with their tenants noting any damages. After each tenant vacates and returns possession of his property, a landlord must return his security deposit within 45 days and if he intends to keep any portion of it, he must provide a written itemization of damages within this period.

The VRLTA imposes legal duties and obligations on both landlords and tenants. The act requires landlords to conduct pre-occupancy inspections of their premises, noting existing damages and documenting the initial condition of their units before their tenants move in. The act also imposes duties on landlord for providing copies of their written leases to their tenants after they sign them.

If you are a residential landlord in Virginia, you should consider drafting a standard lease agreement that will comply with the commonwealth’s landlord and tenant laws. You can contact our office to help you prepare a standard lease agreement.

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