Your landlord has a duty to keep the premises fit and habitable. If repairs are needed, the first step is to notify the landlord in writing. This can be a letter, email, text message, or, if your landlord uses one, the property management app. You must then give your landlord a reasonable amount of time to make the repairs. If the problem is an emergency, such as no heat in winter or a sewage problem, the landlord must fix it immediately. You must also give the landlord access to your home to make the repairs.
If the landlord still refuses to fix a health and safety issue, there are two ways to get the needed repairs.
Tenant’s Assertion: Take your landlord to court and get a judge to order repairs.
If your landlord does not make repairs, you can file what is called a tenant’s assertion in court. To file a tenants’ assertion, follow these steps:
For help filling the out the Tenants Assertion and Complaint Form (DC 429) go here.
Repair and Deduct: Have certified contractor complete the repairs and deduct the cost from the rent.
Tenants have a new option to get repairs, called “repair and deduct.” If your landlord fails to make repairs affecting health and safety, you can contract with licensed contractor to get work done and deduct the cost from the rent. Follow these steps:
During a state of emergency based on a pandemic, tenants may provide written notice to the landlord that they do not want non-emergency maintenance conducted. If a tenant provides this notice, the landlord can only enter to do nonemergency maintenance:
Tenants have rights and responsibilities when renting a home in Virginia. Before signing a lease or moving into a new home, you should read and understand the terms of the lease contract.
Starting July 1, 2020, all landlords must give new tenants a Statement of Tenant Rights and Responsibilities.
You have the right to a written lease.
Landlords must offer written leases. The lease is a contract stating what the landlord will do and what you as the renter will have to do. The law will generally make you follow all the terms of the lease, so make sure you clearly understand what you have agreed to do. Pay careful attention to the following items:
You have the right to know about certain property conditions.
Landlords must reveal certain information to tenants, including:
You have the right to inspect the property at move-in and move-out.
The landlord has the right to ask for a security deposit. A security deposit cannot be more than two months’ rent. Within five days of move in, the landlord and tenant must do a written move-in inspection. Within five days, the tenant has the right to object to anything in the move-in report. Within three days of move out, the landlord and tenant must do a written move-out inspection.
You have the right to a refund of your security deposit at the end of your tenancy.
Within 45 days of moving out of the property, the landlord must return the deposit and/or give the tenant a written list of how the deposit was used. A deposit may be used only for unpaid rent, late fees, other charges in the lease, and damages more than reasonable wear and tear.
You have the right to receipts of your rent payments and a written statement of all charges and payments.
Upon request, a tenant is entitled to a written receipt of rent paid by cash or money order. Upon request, a tenant is entitled to a written statement of all charges and payments over the past 12 months. (§55.1-1204-D/I)
You have the right to privacy.
A landlord may not release information about a tenant without consent, except under certain conditions. (§55.1-1209).
You have the right to quiet enjoyment of the property.
Tenants have the right of “quiet enjoyment” of the property. Quiet enjoyment is a right to the undisturbed use and enjoyment, free of unreasonable inference by the landlord.
A landlord may enter a rental unit without a tenant’s consent only in an emergency. A tenant cannot unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter a rental unit. A landlord may not abuse the right of access or use it to harass a tenant. Except in an emergency, a landlord must give a tenant notice of intent to enter and enter only at reasonable times. Unless it is an emergency, a landlord must give a tenant at least 72 hours’ advance notice.
You have the right to fit and habitable premises.
A tenant has the right to a fit and habitable rental unit. The landlord must make all repairs needed to keep premises fit and habitable. (§ 55.1-1220-21). For information about repairs, see The landlord has a duty to keep the premises fit and habitable.
Tenants also have the right to be notified of properly notified before pesticides are applied in the premises.
You have the right to be heard by the court before the landlord can evict you.
A landlord may not evict a tenant without following the court eviction process. For more information about the eviction steps see the Evictions page. For more information about how to stop an illegal eviction, see “My Landlord Locked Me Out or Cut Off My Utilities.”
You have the right to redemption of the property.
After an eviction lawsuit for nonpayment of rent is filed, a tenant has the right to pay to a zero balance on or before the court date and have the lawsuit dismissed. After a court issues a judgment of possession, a tenant has the right to pay to a zero balance up to two business days before the Sheriff’s eviction and have the eviction cancelled. A tenant may use one of these rights only once in a 12-month period. (§55.1-1250). For more information about how to exercise the right of redemption, see How do I prepare for court? on the Eviction and Lease Termination page.
Special rules for victims of domestic violence.
There is a special law about how you may enter into a rental agreement if you have been the victim of domestic violence. Here is the most likely situation, and how it works:
If you in fact want to stay living there, you can give a copy of the Protective Order to the landlord and submit an application within ten days after the Protective Order was issued to become a tenant in the same place. If the landlord decides they don’t want to accept you as a tenant, they have to give you written notice that your application was rejected. You then have 30 days after that notice to move out. If, on the other hand, you don’t, within ten days, apply to become a tenant, and don’t give the landlord a copy of the Protective Order, you have to move out no later than 30 days after the Protective Order was issued.
Special Rules for Armed Service Members.
Any member of the armed forces of the United States or a member of the National Guard serving on full-time duty or as a Civil Service technician with the National Guard may terminate the lease early if the tenant:
A tenant who meets this critera may end the lease early by giving written notice to the landlord at least 30 days before the next rent payment is due. The lease end date cannot be more than 60 days before the military depature orders. The tenant must also give the landlord a copy of the official nootification of the orders or a signed letter letter confirming the order from the tenant’s commanding officer. The landlord must prorate the final rent payment to the date of termination and cannot charge any liquidate damages.
Pay reasonable application fee and security deposit.
Tenants may be charged a nonrefundable application fee of no more than $50 (not including third party costs for a background check) and a refundable application deposit. If the tenant does not rent the unit, the application deposit must be returned, minus any actual costs or damages. (§55.1-1203) Unless specifically agreed to by the landlord, do not use the security deposit to pay your last month’s rent as your landlord could bring an eviction action when the rent is not paid timely.
A tenant also may be required to have and pay for damage insurance OR a security deposit not to exceed two months’ rent. A tenant cannot be required to pay for both. (§55.1-1206) If the tenant does not rent the unit, the deposit must be returned, minus any actual costs or damages. (§55.1-1203)
Pay rent on time.
Unless the lease says otherwise, rent is due in equal payments each month. (§55.1-1204-B/G) If rent is not paid on time, the tenant must pay a late fee if the lease requires one. A late fee can be no more than 10 percent of the monthly rent, or 10 percent of the unpaid balance, whichever is less. (§55.1-1204)
Manage renter’s insurance policy
A tenant may be required to have and pay for renter’s insurance.
Maintain Fit and Habitable Premises.
Keep your rented space and plumbing as clean and safe as conditions permit.