Warning Paper

Holdover Tenancies and Unlawful Detainers in Virginia

A “holdover tenant” is one who remains beyond the original lease agreement without obtaining consent from his/her landlord. Even if you’re paying rent to your landlord, your landlord may be able to sue you as a holdover tenant if you stay without permission.

The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act or VRLTA

Although the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act or “VRLTA” doesn’t cover some tenants; it covers many, if not most. The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act codify most of Virginia’s landlord and tenant laws. According to the VRLTA, under Section 55-248 of the Virginia Code, a landlord has the legal right to demand immediate eviction when a tenant doesn’t leave or vacate the rental unit at the end of the original lease agreement.

What Landlords Can’t Do

Virginia landlords cannot forcibly evict you without judicial intervention. In other words, your landlord can’t diminish essential services or cut-off utilities, can’t remove personal possessions, can’t rekey or change locks on doors and can’t physically remove you. Only a sheriff by court order can do this. Landlords also need a court order to change locks.

Landlords Must Give Five Day Pay or Quit Notices to Holdover Tenants

Before your landlord can seek a legal eviction, as a Virginia tenant, your landlord must give you at least five days to pay your past-due rent or give you an opportunity to leave voluntarily if your lease has ended. Known as a “five-day pay or quit notice,” tenants have five days to pay all amounts due and owing, including late fees and court fees.

We won’t discuss the right of redemption in this blog, but we’ll cover it in another one. The written, 5-day pay or quit notice gives you five days to pay your rent and incidental fees before your landlord can file an unlawful detainer action against you.

An Unlawful Detainer is a Court Action for Eviction

As a Virginia landlord, you need to send written notice giving your holdover tenant five days to pay or quit (leave). The notice must conform to specific statutory requirements under the Virginia law, including certified delivery or actual service of process. Landlords can require only cash or certified check payments from holdover tenants.

The unlawful detainer allows a Virginia landlord to seek possession and unpaid rent. Generally, a tenant sued by unlawful detainer must show up to court on a “return date” or initial hearing date.

After the Unlawful Detainer Comes a Writ of Possession

After a landlord prevails or wins the unlawful detainer action, Virginia law allows him/her to file a “writ of possession.” This writ is really a judgment allowing the landlord to seek judicial removal through the local sheriff’s office. A sheriff eviction is by escort and something you probably want to avoid. Landlords can seek a writ of possession only after the relevant appeals period and after strictly following the statutory requirements.

Additional Resources

For further reading, I’ve compiled a list of informative publications.

  1. The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development offers a free Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act Handbook.
  2. Visit the U.S.Housing and Urban Development Website (HUD): HUD offers a great state-specific webpage for Virginia residential landlords and tenants.
  3. Visit the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Website for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) by Landlords and Tenants
  4. Last but not least, contact a Virginia landlord and tenant attorney.

Contact Us Today

If you’re looking for a Virginia real estate attorney or landlord and tenant attorney, contact Keithley Law, PLLC, PLLC today by calling (703) 454-5147 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office.

Legal Disclaimer: ADVERTISING MATERIAL.Do not rely on this site for legal advice. The information provided on “Keithleylaw.com” is strictly for educational purposes and to provide you with general educational information about Virginia laws. Since state laws are subject to change, please schedule an appointment with our office to further discuss your personal situation. This public information is neither intended to, nor will, create an attorney-client relationship.