Security Deposit Disputes in Virginia
How to protect your rental security deposit in Virginia.
What are the Parties' ResponsibilitesA dispute with your landlord regarding return of a security deposit can be frustrating. At the outset of a rental agreement in Virginia, a landlord may require a security deposit in an amount up to two months of normal rent. Upon termination of the tenancy, the landlord may apply this deposit to unpaid rent (including reasonable late charges per the contract), payment for damages caused by the tenant apart from reasonable wear and tear, and balances due on utilities. Many tenants feel slighted when their landlord takes more than they feel is warranted for "wear and tear". Unfortunately, the term is not easily defined. Generally, reasonable wear and tear is considered the unavoidable deterioration of the dwelling due to normal use. The most common example is the wear in carpet over time due to normal traffic. However, stains in carpet that are avoidable (i.e. nail polish, food, etc.) probably fall outside normal wear and tear. Tenants in Virginia must keep the premises safe and clean, free from pests, clear of waste, and avoid destroying, defacing, damaging, or removing any part of the premises.
Protect Yourself at the OutsetThe best way to avoid disputes in the future is to protect yourself at the beginning or your tenancy. In Virginia, landlords are required, within five days of your occupancy, to provide a report itemizing the current damage to the rental. The landlord may allow you to fill out the move-in inspection report. The landlord is generally not required to repair that damage during the term of the lease, but you should not be charged for those repairs at the end of the lease agreement, either. In addition to the report, you should take photographs and/or video to document the amount of damage present. This will help you avoid a he-said-she-said dispute about "how much" the carpet was stained or "how many" nail holes were in the wall.
Returning your DepositThe Virginia landlord/tenant act provides rules and guidelines for how, when, and in what amount landlords must return security deposits to vacating tenants. If a deduction is made against the security deposit during the tenancy, the landlord must provide written notification and itemization of the deduction within 30 days. A landlord must itemize any deductions, damages, or charges and send written notice and any amount of the deposit remaining to the tenant within 45 days of termination of the tenancy and delivery of possession. As of 2014, The landlord need not return any accrued interest on the security deposit. The landlord is required to advise the tenant of the tenant's right to be present at the landlord's inspection of the home within 72 hours of delivery of possession. The tenant must request to be present in writing. Upon completion of the inspection, the landlord must provide the tenant with an itemized list of damages known to exist at the time. If the amount for the repair of damages caused by the tenant exceeds the security deposit amount, the landlord must provide notice to the tenant within the 45 day period, after which the landlord has an additional 15 days to provide an itemization of the damage and cost of the repair. If a Court rules that the landlord willfully failed to follow the above rules, the landlord must return the deposit, pay any actual damages sustained by the tenant, and pay the tenants reasonable attorneys fees.
CreditsGregory S. Bean is a landlord/tenant attorney at Collins & Hyman, which represents clients in Williamsburg and Newport News. www.collinshyman.com