3 Differences Between Virginia Landlord and Tenant Common Law and Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (VRLTA)

If you’ve owned rental property or rented property in Virginia, you may have had to learn the differences between what is required by the VRLTA, also known as, the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and what is required under common law.

In plain English, if you’re a renter, and your lease doesn’t refer to the VRLTA, your landlord isn’t required to do anything, unless you’re covered by the common law or the default rule. The obvious exceptions are federal housing laws and anti-discrimination regulations.

Read our previous blogs regarding landlord and tenant laws in Virginia to find more information.

Title 55 of the 1950 Code of Virginia, as amended, is the statute that deals with property and conveyances. Almost everything pertaining to the legal disposition of real property and the transfer (buying/selling/renting) of real property can be found in this Chapter.

In general, the VRLTA is codified in Section 13.2, Title 55, of the 1950 Code of Virginia, as amended. However, the common law is covered by Section 13, Title 55, of the 1950 Code of Virginia, as amended.

Here are 3 Differences Between Virginia Landlord and Tenant Act and the Common Law: (note: there are many other differences, but this is a partial list)

1. Security Deposits

VRLTA: Landlord can’t collect more than two months of rent as security deposit. Need to keep in interest-bearing account if held longer than 13 months. Landlord must return within 45 days but provide itemized deductions from security deposit within 30 days.

Covered by Section 55-248.15:1 of the Virginia Code.

Common Law: Silent. No cap, no requirement for interest-bearing account, no time limits to return, but in my experience, courts will require that landlords return security deposits within 45 days of move-out, even if your lease doesn’t incorporate the VRLTA.

2. No Signed Lease or Failure to Provide Lease

In other words, if you discover your tenant didn’t sign a written lease, you are better off, in most cases, if you incorporated this part of the VRLTA into your lease.

VRLTA: An unsigned lease under the VRLTA treats the landlord more favorably than the common law does. According to the Virginia Code Section 55-248.8, an unsigned lease has the same effect as a signed lease if your tenant moved in, paid rent without reservation, for up to one-year. This means that even if you didn’t enter into a written lease agreement with your tenant, you can treat your tenant as a year-to-year tenant; not just a month-to-month tenant.

Common Law: Silent on this issue. Typically, without a signed lease agreement, the tenancy is only month-to-month.

3. What do Landlords Have to Disclose (Mandatory Disclosures)

This is an interesting one. Landlords subject to the VRLTA must disclose certain issues:

Disclosure of mold in dwelling units: Landlords have to disclose it if there is known mold problems as part of the written move-in inspection report.

Required disclosures for properties located adjacent to a military air installation: This is a noise provision and statute enacted to warn prospective tenants of potential accidents. There is also a remedy for nondisclosure.

Defective drywall disclosures: Mandatory and also a remedy for nondisclosure under Section 55-248.12:2 of the Virginia Code; remedy for nondisclosure.

Common Law: Mold disclosure same as VRLTA and governed by Section 55-225.7.

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

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