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Understanding Evictions in Virginia: Essential Insights for Rental Property Owner - Article Banner

When you need to evict a tenant in Virginia, you have likely exhausted every other option. We always think that evictions are best avoided; they’re costly and they’re time consuming even if they aren’t contested. 

While tenants can be evicted in Northern Virginia for a variety of reasons, the most common eviction is the eviction for nonpayment of rent. When you cannot seem to find a way to bring your tenants up to date in rent or get them out of the property without evicting them, you might find yourself heading to the courthouse. 

The goal is to remove them so you can turn the property over to a new, well-qualified tenant who is willing and able to pay rent. 

Sometimes, it’s easy, and sometimes the tenants may mount a defense and things get complicated. 

When you do need to evict your tenant, make sure you’re following all Virginia’s eviction laws. Trying to take shortcuts or avoid the legal process in order to get your property back will only get you in trouble, and you’ll end up spending more time and money trying to remove your tenant from your property. 

Here’s what you need to understand about evictions in Virginia, and how we can help you prevent them.

Serve Proper Notice to Your Tenants Before Evicting 

What do you do when a tenant has not paid rent and the grace period that you may have provided passed and those tenants haven’t been responsive to any calls you’ve made or messages you’ve sent? You need to make a formal demand for payment. Before you can evict your tenant, you must send a notice to pay or quit. 

When tenants are willing to work with you, it’s possible to set up a payment arrangement or a payment plan to get them on track and avoid eviction. You should still send the pay or quit notice. This protects you and it protects the process. If your tenant is unable to follow through on what they’ve promised, you can move forward with the eviction. 

The notice period you’re required to provide is five days. You must serve a 5-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. That means the tenant has five days from the time you serve the notice to come up with the rent before you can move forward with an eviction. Don’t try to evict a tenant without serving this notice first, and always allow them the five days to come up with rent. 

In 2021, the notice period was briefly extended to 14 days in Virginia. However, the General Assembly did not vote to keep this time period in place, so we’re back to five days of notice before you move forward with eviction. 

Prepare Yourself for Court 

If the tenant catches up within the five days, great. You don’t have to do anything else except maybe send a reminder next month so you can be sure rent is paid on time. 

However, if the rent does not come in within those five days and it does not appear that your tenant has moved out, you’ll need to file for the eviction action in court. You’re basically suing your tenant for possession of the property, and the court will send a Summons. 

You’ll receive a court date. If your tenant is fighting the eviction, the judge will hold a hearing where both sides can plead their case. Unless there is a reason that the tenants can prove they should not be evicted, you’ll receive a judgment for possession. 

To ensure you win your eviction case, make sure you arrive at court with: 

  • A copy of your lease agreement
  • A copy of any accounting ledgers or statements that show the nonpayment of rent
  • A copy of your 5 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit
  • Any correspondence between you and your tenant

You will need to be prepared to answer any questions the judge may pose. Remain professional and resist the urge to appear angry. 

Obtaining a Writ of Eviction 

There will be a 10-day period where the tenant has an opportunity to appeal. Sometimes they will appeal, but if it’s clear the rent has not been paid and cannot be paid, there’s not much they can do for themselves legally. Then, you’ll get a Writ of Eviction, which instructs the sheriff to schedule a physical eviction. Usually, your tenant will move out before the sheriff shows up. 

While it’s fairly straightforward, tenants can be unpredictable, especially when they’re facing eviction. We always recommend you talk to a property manager or an experienced eviction attorney. Even the slightest mistake can set you back.

Avoiding Eviction in Northern Virginia 

Preventing evictions will save you time, money, and a lot of frustration. 

Eviction should be a last resort, always. Focus on these things before rushing to the courthouse. 

  • Invest in rigorous tenant screening

Don’t rent to tenant who have a history of evictions. During the screening process, make sure you’re closely evaluating their rental history. Talk to former landlords if you can. Ask if rent was paid on time and if they took good care of the property. Always check for prior evictions. 

  • Enforce your rent collection policy

Put a rent collection policy in place that prevents the late and missing rent payments that often lead to eviction. Make sure you share your rent collection policy with your tenants before they move in, and then reinforce it throughout the tenancy. Your lease agreement should reflect all the consequences of paying rent late, including late fees and the potential for eviction. 

  • Create positive tenant relationships

Positive RelationshipYou’re less likely to have to evict a tenant with whom you have a positive and respectful relationship. Make sure you’re putting every effort into working well with your residents. Eviction will be rare. 

If you have any questions about property management in Virginia, specifically evictions and how we can help you prevent or navigate them, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Comfort Property Management. We lease, manage, and maintain investment properties throughout Northern Virginia, in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, McLean, Ashburn, Sterling, Springfield, Reston, Chantilly, Manassas, Centreville, and Herndon.