FAIRFAX, VA CIVIL LITIGATION ATTORNEY

Landlord-Tenant Cases in the State of Virginia: The Process of Eviction

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the majority of residential landlord-tenant cases are filed for failure to pay rent. The landlord initiates a case by serving the pay or quit notice upon the tenant. This notice gives the tenant five days (or longer, depending on the terms of the lease) to pay back rent and associated late fees or risk termination of the lease agreement. The Law Office of Wilfred W. Yeargan serves the pay or quit notice by private process server, so that a notarized affidavit of service can be used in court. If the sums are not paid, the landlord may file a court action called a Summons for Unlawful Detainer.

The Summons for Unlawful Detainer is filed in the General District Court. The General District Court generally has jurisdiction to hear disputes of money up to $15,000.00. A copy of the pay or quit notice, a Soldiers and Sailors Affidavit, and an Affidavit for Default Judgment should be filed with the Summons and served by the Sheriff. The court case allows the landlord to evict the tenant and obtain possession of the premises after judgment. The landlord may receive, in addition to eviction, a judgment against the tenant for back rent, late fees, any property damage, costs and attorneys fees.

When the Summons for Unlawful Detainer is filed, the clerk assigns an initial return date thirty to sixty days away. This return date is essentially a status hearing to set the case for trial. If the tenant does not appear for the return date, the plaintiff landlord may obtain a default judgment. When a tenant appears at the return date and contests the case, the judge assigns a trial date several weeks in the future. Landlord-tenant cases in Virginia are assigned priority on the civil docket in the General District Courts.

In Virginia, a tenant sued in Unlawful Detainer may exercise a right of redemption once every 12 months. The right of redemption allows the tenant to pay all back rent, late fees, court costs and attorneys fees to the landlord before the return date. The tenant is allowed to retain possession of the premises for the remainder of the lease term if all rent is timely paid. The court case is dismissed by the judge. A tenant may exercise this right of redemption only once every 12 months under the Code of Virginia.

Landlords who receive payment of rent from delinquent tenants may waive their right to file suit and demand possession of the leased premises. A rent receipt with Notice of Reservation should be sent to the tenant for all payments received after the expiration of the pay or quit period. This notice must be sent to the tenant within five business days of receipt of the rent under the Virginia Code.

If a landlord receives a judgment from the General District Court for Unlawful Detainer, he may then evict the tenant from the premises. This is done by filing a request for a Writ of Possession with the clerk’s office. In some counties this may be filed only after the ten day appeal period lapses. Once the writ is filed, the Sheriff’s Office will coordinate the eviction process with the landlord.

Attorney Wilfred W. Yeargan represents landlords and tenants in the Northern Virginia area, including Fairfax County, Prince William County, Fauquier County, Loudoun County, Arlington County, Stafford County, Spotsylvania County, Alexandria, Herndon, Vienna, and Falls Church.

Click here for a short list of results from select cases handled by Attorney Yeargan.  This list reflects the general type of case load defended by the law firm.

CASE RESULTS DEPEND ON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE.  CASE RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE UNDERTAKEN BY THE LAWYER.