As a rental property owner in Virginia, you know that evictions are sometimes necessary.
Evicting a tenant may seem cruel, but you know that it is part of the business.
For this reason, you need to know how to properly evict a tenant in Virginia.
If a tenant becomes unable to pay rent then you are going to need to remove them from your property. Sometimes this process is simple--you ask the tenant to vacate and they oblige.
However, it is more likely that you will have to file a formal eviction. To do this, you need to be well-versed on eviction laws in Virginia.
Eviction laws will differ depending on state and local laws. It is essential that you familiarize yourself with eviction laws in Virginia and follow them exactly when evicting a tenant.
Know your Eviction Laws
As previously mentioned, eviction laws differ from state to state.
You should familiarize yourself with eviction laws in Virginia before writing your leasing agreement, and include information pertaining to eviction laws in Virginia in your lease.
Your leasing agreement should be as detailed as possible, to prevent misunderstandings down the road between yourself and your tenant.
It is a good idea to use a lease agreement that has been created by a lawyer who is knowledgeable on state and local laws.
Never Attempt to Self-Evict a Tenant
While state eviction laws differ, there is one rule that pertains to each state.
Never attempt to self-evict a tenant.
Even if the tenant has stopped paying rent or is damaging your property.
It is illegal for you to take matters into your own hands.
You can’t do any of the following without first getting a court order:
- Change the locks
- Remove the tenant’s possessions from the property
- Physically attempt to remove the tenant
- Turn off utilities
- Harass the tenant
In order for you to swiftly evict a problem tenant, you are going to want the court to be on your side.
If the tenant is able to prove that you have attempted to take things into your own hands then the hearing may not rule in your favor.
You will need to show the judge that you are well-versed in eviction laws in Virginia and that you are following the law exactly.
Reasons for Evicting a Tenant
To evict a tenant in Virginia you need to have a good reason.
You can’t evict someone just because you don’t like them.
However, there are many justifiable reasons to evict a tenant.
- Tenant has stopped paying rent
- Tenant is violating the lease agreement
- Tenant is causing damage to the property beyond regular “wear and tear”
- Tenant is engaging in illegal activity
Keep in mind that you will need to present the court with documented proof. Your word against theirs may not be enough to win the case.
So for example, lets say your tenant is violating your lease agreement by keeping a pet on the property when your lease states that no pets are allowed.
You will need to be able to prove that the tenant has been keeping a pet on the premises.
Another example would be if your tenant is causing damage to your property.
You will need to be able to prove that the damage was caused by the tenant.
For this reason, it is essential that you conduct a move in report with your tenant, and take photos of the property at this time.
This way, you will be able to present the court with images of the property before it was damaged, and prove that the tenant caused the damages.
Try and Reason with your Tenant
Even when you are well-versed in eviction laws in Virginia, the eviction process is a headache.
If possible, try and reason with your tenants, and give them the chance to correct their violations.
If you want to evict your tenant for keeping a pet when your lease agreement stipulated no pets, then you should give your tenant the opportunity to rehome their pet, rather than evict them because of it.
Give Formal Notice
If you are unable to come to an agreement with your tenant, then you will begin the formal eviction process.
You will begin by serving your tenant with an eviction notice. Remember, your reasons for evicting the tenant must be justified and you must be able to prove it.
Rules regarding the notice will differ between states but typically you must include this information / follow these guidelines.
- Deadline (the date by which the tenant must correct the lease violation or move out)
- Amount owed to you (if you evicting the tenant for nonpayment of rent)
- Number of days (the number of days the tenant has to correct the violation before you will file for eviction)
- Post the notice (the notice should typically be posted on their door as well as mailed)
If you are lucky, the eviction notice will scare the tenant into correcting their lease violation, and you will not have to take them to court.
However, if your tenant still does not oblige, then it is time to officially file eviction paperwork at your local court.
Filing for Eviction
You’ve done everything you can to prevent needing to file for eviction.
You’ve reasoned with your tenant, and given them the option to correct the lease violation.
You’ve presented them with an eviction notice that allotted them a certain number of days to correct the violation or be evicted.
Nobody likes to evict a tenant, but you aren’t the bad guy here. You’ve done everything you can and it is time to get your property back.
Head down to the local courthouse and file for the eviction. The clerk will schedule a hearing and notify the tenant with the date that they are expected to appear in court.
It is essential that you are able to prove that you served your tenant with an eviction notice. Otherwise, they may try to claim that they never received one when they appear in court.
The Court Hearing
Before the hearing you will want to make sure you have your documents in order. When preparing for hearing you will want to compile the following:
- Lease agreement
- Checks that have bounced
- Payment records
- Communication records between you and your tenant
- A copy of the eviction notice
- Proof that the tenant received the eviction notice
When it comes to the benefit of the doubt, you should have the court on your side during the hearing.
Afterall, evicting a tenant is a stressful process and they will understand that you wouldn’t be evicting them unless you had no other choice.
However, you need to be prepared for the tenant to try and fight the eviction.
They may try to prove that they never received the eviction notice, or they may even try to claim that your property was uninhabitable.
This is why you must have all of your documents in order before you arrive at the court hearing.
Evicting the Tenant
If the court rules in your favor, then it is time to get your property back.
Your tenant will have a set period of time to leave, which differs between states. Typically they will have anywhere from two to seven days to vacate the property.
If your tenant refuses to leave the property, then you will need to call the sheriff and have them remove the tenant.
You will then place the tenants possessions on the curb or arrange for a time for them to collect their possession. Once evicted, you should never allow the tenant back inside the property.
Collect Past Due Rent
There are many ways you can collect past due rent from a former tenant.
Small Claims Court
Some courts will allow you to file for past due rent at the same time you file your eviction.
However, if this is not the case, you can take your tenant to small claims court on a separate occasion in order to collect the rent owed to you.
Garnish Your Former Tenant’s Wages
If a judge determines that the tenant must pay you past due rent, then you can garnish their wages.
The judge will present you with a court order which you can give to the tenant’s employer.
The employer will then pay you the tenants wages as a means of collecting the rent owed to you.
Garnish Your Former Tenant’s Tax Refund
Similar to garnishing your former tenant’s wages, you can garnish their tax refund.
Private Debt Collector
Debt collectors will not only help you to collect the money owed to you, but they will report the tenant to all three major credit bureaus.
This is a major bonus, because it will help to prevent other landlords from renting to the tenant you have been forced to evict.