By Andrew O. Clarke, Esquire

Landlord Tenant Law is pro Landlord in Virginia.  More often than not, a landlord has the right to evict you for even the slightest breach of the lease, the most common being non-payment of rent. In Virginia, an action for eviction can be commenced by filing an Unlawful Detainer.  But eviction in Virginia is not an easy process.  If you are considering evicting a tenant here are 5 pitfalls that can get your case dismissed.

  1. Inadequate Notice

In Virginia, a tenant cannot be evicted without the landlord first providing the tenant with notice.  For non-payment of rent, 5 days notice is needed.  For a violation of the lease agreement materially effecting health and safety that is remediable, the tenant has 21 days to remedy that breach.  If not remedial, violation of the lease agreement materially effecting health and safety, notice is 30 days.  For illegal drug activity, immediate termination of the lease agreement is acceptable.  Non compliance with the above notice provisions can lead to dismissal of your case.  For more information, see Va. Code § 55-248.31 or contact an attorney.

  1. Rental Agreement Contains a Confession of Judgment Provision

In some cases, you can request that someone admit to owing you money without having to go the traditional route of filing a complaint.  This is called a “Confession of Judgment”.  Landlords in Virginia CANNOT place a confession of judgment provision in their lease agreements.  Doing this can lead to dismissal of your case.  For more information, see, Va. Code § 55-248.9 or contact an attorney.

  1. Evicting a Member of the Armed Forces

If a tenant terminates a lease early, a landlord has the right to recover liquidated damages for the duration of the lease remaining (exceptions apply).  Landlords cannot request these damages from members of the armed forces that have received military order to serve.  Doing so will result in dismissal of your case.   For more information, see, Va. Code § 55-248.21:1 or contact an attorney.

  1. Eviction Without Legal Process (Self Help)

Changing locks and cutting off utilities is considered “self-help” and is prohibited by Virginia law.  If you take one of these actions, your case will get dismissed. For more information, see, Va. Code § 55-248.36 or contact an attorney.

  1. Not Submitting an Affidavit Prior to Judgment. 

To prevail on an Unlawful Detainer action you must prove that an agreement to lease the premises existed.  To do this, a signed lease agreement is required.  To receive judgment on that lease agreement, you will need a notarized Affidavit from the landlord authenticating the lease agreement as true and accurate.  If this is not done, your case will be dismissed.  For more information, see, Va. Code § 8.01-126 or contact an attorney.

Keep in mind that case results may vary and this is article is for information purposes and not intended to provide legal advice.  Also, this is not an exhaustive list of reasons your case can get dismissed.  If you have questions or need more information, contact me at a.clarke@aclarkelaw.com.

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