Basic guide for explaining an eviction process in Virginia.
The two most common problems that residential landlords face requiring eviction of their tenant(s) are non-payment of rent and non-compliance with the terms of the lease. The procedures for handling the two issues vary to a degree but ultimately end with an action for unlawful detainer.
Failure to Pay Rent
If a tenant has failed to pay their rent, the landlord must issue a Pay or Quit notice. This is a written notice that gives the tenant five days to either pay the delinquent amount or vacate the property. If the tenant pays within the five days then the tenant can stay. If not, the landlord may file the unlawful detainer.
Non-Compliance with Lease Terms
If a tenant is not complying with the terms of the lease, the landlord must issue a Notice of Default of Notice to Quit. This is a 30-day written notice that gives the tenant 21 days to correct the violation (i.e. parking, yard maintenance, paint, etc.) or the lease terminates at the end of the 30 days. If the violation cannot be fixed, (such as willful damage) the 30-day notice is a straight notice, and the landlord may file the unlawful detainer.
The summons for unlawful detainer is filed in the General District Court where the property is located and the clerk will assign a return date for the hearing. If uncontested or the judge rules in favor of the landlord, the landlord is entitled to rent and/or possession. The tenant has 10 days to appeal. After the ten days passes with no appeal, the landlord may file for a Writ of Possession which will be executed by the Sheriff within 30 days.
The landlord may elect to evict in two ways. The first is a full eviction where all of the tenant's property is removed and safely placed on the nearest public right of way. This usually involves hiring a moving crew and sometimes the Sheriff may require the landlord to provide boxes and bags to protect the tenant's property. The other eviction is the 24-hour lock change where the landlord has the locks changed within 24 hours of the eviction and allows the tenant an additional 24 hours access to remove their possessions. Anything left behind is to be sold or destroyed by the landlord.
These are just the basics. There are more nuances to evictions and landlord/tenant issues which is why I would encourage everyone to at least consult with an attorney before beginning the process themselves. If you are able, and I would recommend this most strongly, simply hire an attorney to handle this for you. You do not want to unknowingly waive certain rights. Thanks for reading! *Disclaimer - This basic guide is not intended to address every scenario and specific facts and nuances affect the application of the information contained in this article. The information below is also not intended to replace a consultation with a qualified attorney.
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