Eviction isn’t as simple as telling a tenant to get out. Tenants have many legal rights and as a landlord in the Commonwealth of Virginia, it’s important to understand the proper process of eviction to avoid legal action and consequences.
Absolutely Prohibited Conduct
In evicting a tenant, a landlord is not allowed to forcibly remove a tenant by his or her own power, whether that be by changing the locks, shutting off utilities, removing the tenant’s belongings, or any other action. A landlord also may not evict a tenant as retaliation when a tenant exercises a legal right, such as joining a tenant’s union or testifying against the landlord.
Grounds for Eviction
There are multiple grounds on which a landlord may evict a tenant. One valid reason to evict a tenant is failure to pay rent. If a tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord must give the tenant 5 days’ notice to either pay rent or vacate the premises. If neither happens, then the landlord can file suit for eviction.
Another valid reason to evict a tenant is if the tenant has violated the lease. The landlord must give the tenant 30 days’ notice to vacate before filing an eviction suit. If the violation is curable, then the tenant has 21 days within those 30 days to fix the issue. If the tenant fixes the issue, then the tenant does not need to vacate. However, if the tenant later commits the same violation, the tenant does not have the chance to remedy the issue in 21 days; the tenant must move out by the end of the 30-day notice period or else the landlord may file suit for eviction. If the violation is incurable from the time the landlord gives initial notice, then the tenant has no opportunity to fix the issue but must move out within 30 days.
The landlord may evict a tenant if the tenant engages in illegal activity. In this scenario, the landlord does not have to provide the tenant with any notice before filing an eviction action in the appropriate court.
The landlord may always give 30 days’ notice to a tenant to vacate the premises when the lease has ended or a month-to-month tenancy was created. (A month-to-month tenancy may arise when there is no written lease or the lease fails to state an end date.) If the tenant has not vacated after 30 days, then the landlord may file suit for eviction.
Steps to Evict
Step One: Serve Notice on the Tenant
To begin the eviction process, a landlord must give notice to the tenant in accordance with the requirements explained above. Notice must be delivered to the tenant in person or by first class mail.
Step Two: File a Complaint with the Court
If the tenant has not vacated by the end of the notice period, then the landlord may file a summons for unlawful detainer in the appropriate circuit or district court. The court must schedule a hearing no later than 21 to 30 days after the complaint is filed. (However, requesting a jury trial will add more time.) Notice of the hearing date must be served on the tenant at least 10 days prior to the hearing.
Step Three: Court Hearing and Judgment
At the court hearing, the judge will decide whether to grant possession to the landlord. In addition to seeking possession, a landlord may also recover damages, court costs, and attorneys’ fees unless the tenant can prove that failure to vacate was reasonable. If the court rules in favor of the landlord, the court may issue a writ of eviction.
Step Four: Getting the Writ of Eviction
A writ of eviction is the tenant’s final notice to leave the rental unit before being forcibly removed. A landlord must request that the court give him or her a writ of eviction after the court rules in the landlord’s favor. The court may issue the writ immediately upon entry of the judgment for possession; however, the sheriff, who will deliver the writ to the tenant, must wait for the tenant’s 10-day appeal window to expire before serving the writ on the tenant. If the landlord does not request a writ of eviction within 180 days of the judgment, the landlord will need to begin the eviction process all over again.
Step Five: Repossess the Property
Once the court has issued the writ, the sheriff must deliver the writ of eviction to the tenant or post it on the rental property within 15 to 30 days of receiving the writ. Upon receiving the writ, the tenant will have 72 hours to move out of the rental unit. If the tenant has not left the rental unit after 72 hours, the sheriff may forcibly remove the tenant.
We Can Help
As you can see, this process can be complicated and requires many legal steps, documents and processes. If you have an eviction issue that you need legal counsel for, contact Davis Law Group today to schedule an in-person or virtual consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. At Davis Law Group it’s all about peace of mind.