As a Virginia landlord, you can raise your tenants’ rent by providing notice and an opportunity to terminate the lease agreement before the rent increase becomes effective. You may not raise your tenants’ without providing written notice at least 30 days before your increase takes place. If you use written leases to bind your tenants, you must comply with the terms of those agreements. Typically, landlords cannot raise their tenants’ rent if they entered into annual written leases with them. Thus, if you signed a year-to-year lease with a tenant, you cannot raise that tenant’s rent before the lease ends. Furthermore, you must give your tenant a chance to end her lease before binding her to the new rental rate.
Although the Virginia Code allows landlords to use both written and oral leases with their tenants, they must comply with the statutory provisions requiring written notices. In other words, you can enter into an oral lease with your tenants, but if you raise your tenants’ rent, you must provide written notice, and an oral notice is typically ineffective. In addition to providing a written notice, you must give this notice at least seven, 10 or 30 days in advance of the effective date of the increase. A month-to-month tenant must have at least 30 days’ written notice of a rental increase. A week-to-week tenant must have at least seven days’ notice in writing prior to the increase.
You can raise your tenants’ monthly or weekly rental amount, but you cannot raise it in retaliation or for a bad-faith reason. A retaliatory rental increase is usually illegal and subject to strict scrutiny by courts. A retaliatory reason is one made in response to your tenant exercising her legal rights. If you decide to raise your rent to “punish” your tenant, or you raise rent as retaliation against a complaint against you for violating a housing code, your rental increase is said to be retaliatory. Similarly, if you raised your rent because your tenant reported you for failing to comply with any state or federal housing laws, your increase is most likely retaliatory.
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