Virginia Eviction Process
November 15, 2023
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Eviction In Virginia
If you own and rent properties in the state of Virginia, you are responsible for complying with Virginia eviction laws. In this article, we break down each step of the legal process for eviction in Virginia.
Eviction Process in Virginia
- Landlord serves a zero- to 30-day eviction notice.
- Landlord files an eviction lawsuit with the court.
- Court serves tenant a summons.
- Landlord and tenant attend court hearing and receive judgment.
- Tenant gets 72 hours to move out.
- Sheriff returns to forcibly remove the tenant.
According to Virginia landlord tenant law, tenants can be evicted for failing to pay rent, violating the lease agreement, repeating a prior lease violation, failing to maintain the rental unit, criminal activity, or any illegal drug activity.
1. Landlord Serves a Zero- to 30-Day Eviction Notice
The first step in the Virginia eviction process is sending formal notice. If any of the above lease violations occur, the landlord must first serve a Virginia eviction notice and state that the tenant has the appropriate number of days to remedy or cure the violation.
There are four possible eviction notices a landlord may send in Virginia:
- Rent Demand Notice: 5 days to pay or quit. If rent is unpaid when due, a Virginia residential landlord may deliver this notice stating the amount of unpaid rent required to remedy the breach and the date on which the lease will terminate if it is not paid (not less than five days after receipt of the notice) (VA Code § 55.1-1245(F)).
- Lease Violation Notice (Remediable Breaches): 21 days to cure; 30 days to quit. If a Virginia tenant violates the lease agreement or fails to maintain the unit per VA Code § 55.1-1227 in a way that materially affects health and safety, a Virginia residential landlord may deliver this notice. The notice should state the breach and what is required to remedy it, and that the lease will terminate in 30 days if the breach is not remedied within the first 21 days (VA Code § 55.1-1245(A)).
- Lease Violation Notice (Non-Remediable Breaches and Repeat Violations): 30 days to quit. If the tenant commits a breach of the lease or the law that is un-remediable, Virginia landlords may serve this notice stating the breach and the date by which the tenant must vacate the unit (not less than 30 days after receipt of the notice). A 30-day quit notice (without opportunity to cure) also applies when the tenant intentionally commits the same violation as a prior breach (VA Code § 55.1-1245(C)).
- Unconditional Notice to Quit: Immediate. If a tenant’s breach involves or constitutes a criminal act that poses a threat to health or safety or any illegal drug activity, Virginia landlords may terminate the lease immediately and file for eviction thereafter. It is not necessary for the landlord to wait for a criminal conviction for illegal drug activity before filing for eviction (VA Code § 55.1-1245(C)).
For any of the above eviction notices, the landlord may request that the sheriff serve it by paying a fee no more than $12 (VA Code § 55.1-1247). Additionally, for all instances of noncompliance, the landlord is entitled to recover the following if provided for in the lease or Virginia law, regardless of whether a lawsuit is filed or an order is obtained from the court:
- Rent due and owing
- Other charges and fees agreed upon
- Late charges Reasonable attorney fees
- Court costs
- Damages to the dwelling unit or premises
Note also that partial payment of rent does not constitute a waiver of the landlord’s right to evict a tenant. Only full payments of all amounts, damages, money judgments, and court costs owed to the landlord can stop an eviction, as long as they are paid at least 48 hours before the scheduled eviction.
2. Landlord Files an Eviction Lawsuit with the Court
The next step in the Virginia eviction process is filing a complaint in court. If the tenant has not cured the breach by the end of the notice period (or if the violation is uncurable and the notice period expires), the landlord can then file an unlawful entry and detainer action (the eviction lawsuit) with the Virginia District or Circuit Court in the county in which the property is located (VA Code § 8.01-124). In Virginia, the eviction complaint form and the summons (see below) are combined into one form, called a Summons for Unlawful Detainer (Civil Claim for Eviction) (downloadable here).
The Summons for Unlawful Detainer includes:
- The city or county
- The case number
- The address of the court
- The landlord and tenant’s names, addresses, and contact information
- The date and time at which the tenant must come to court to answer the eviction claim
- The date the form was issued, and a signature from the clerk, deputy clerk, or magistrate
- An address or description of the rental property
- The reason for the eviction (e.g., unpaid rent, lease violation, etc.)
- The amounts of all rent and fees due (including late fees, damages, interest, court costs, civil recovery, and attorney’s fees)
- The landlord’s signature and the date
The landlord must also submit a copy of the original lease agreement and the appropriate termination notice into the court as evidence. Note that the court will not enter an order of possession unless the landlord/landlord’s agent has presented a copy of the right eviction notice (VA Code § 8.01-126(E)(2)(a)).
Lastly, the landlord will be required to pay a filing fee at this time, which varies by county.
3. Court Serves Tenant a Summons
After the landlord files the civil eviction claim, they can present it to a magistrate, clerk, or judge of a general district, who will issue summons against the tenant. This means the tenant must be served a copy of the Summons for Unlawful Detainer to inform them of the court case and court date (VA Code § 8.01-126). It must be served by a sheriff, private process server, or another person outside the case who is at least 18 years old (VA Code § 8.01-293). The fee to have the sheriff serve the summons is $12.
Additionally, service should be made in one of the following manners:
- Delivering a copy to the tenant in person
- If personal service is not possible, by delivering a copy to any family member at the rental unit at least 16 years old
- If none of the above is possible, by posting a copy of the summons at the front door of the rental unit and mailing a copy at least 10 days before a default judgment could be entered. A copy must also be filed in the office of the clerk.
Initial hearings for most eviction cases will occur as soon as practicable, but within 21 days from the day the case was filed at maximum. If the case can’t be heard within 21 days, it should be held no later than 30 days after the filing date (the landlord can request a date suitable for them). The summons must be served at least ten days before the return day (VA Code § 8.01-126(B)).
Initial hearings for evictions based on criminal drug activity must be held within 15 calendar days from the date of service on the tenant, but an earlier hearing is possible when emergency conditions exist and the threat to health/safety is immediate. A subsequent hearing or contested trial shall be heard no later than 30 calendar days from date of service (VA Code § 55.1-1245(C)).
4. Landlord and Tenant Attend Court Hearing and Receive Judgment
On the day of the eviction hearing, the landlord should bring copies of the lease agreement, the eviction notice with proof of service, the complaint, and any evidence of the lease violation. Both the landlord and tenant will present their cases and any evidence to the judge, who will afterwards issue a judgment.
This judgment could either be for both possession and damages or just for possession. If the judgment is for both, the landlord will be able to recover costs and possession at the initial hearing. If the judgment was just for possession, however, the court will schedule a continuance date no later than 120 days from the initial hearing to determine the judgment for final rent and damages. At this second court date, the landlord can request that costs and damages be updated from the amounts listed on the original summons (VA Code § 8.01-128).
Either party can appeal a judgment for possession from the district court to the circuit court. Appeals must be made within 10 days with security approved by the court (the bond must be posted with the writ tax paid within 10 days of the judgment date) (VA Code § 8.01-129(A)).
5. Tenant Gets 72 Hours to Move Out
After a judgment for possession has been issued, the landlord may request the court to issue a Writ of Eviction, which authorizes the tenant’s removal from the property. To get a writ, the landlord will need to complete and file a form called a Request for Writ of Eviction in Unlawful Detainer Proceedings (downloadable here).
Once requested, the writ will be issued immediately and delivered to the sheriff. The sheriff will then plan a date to execute the writ (within 15-30 days later) and serve the writ to the tenant at least 72 hours ahead of that date. This effectively gives the tenant 72 hours to move out after the writ has been served. The date and time of the eviction will be included with the writ, along with the tenant’s rights afforded in the law (VA § 8.01-129(B)).
6. Sheriff Returns to Forcibly Remove the Tenant
Only a sheriff or high constable can execute a writ of possession and remove a tenant from the property (VA Code § 8.01-293(B)). As mentioned above, they must do so within 15 to 30 days of the day the writ of eviction was issued (VA Code § 8.01-470).
If the tenant has not moved out by the end of the 72-hour notice period, the sheriff will return to forcibly remove the tenant and restore possession of the property to the landlord. The sheriff cannot evict the tenant prior to the expiration of the tenant’s 10-day appeal period (VA Code § 8.01-129(B)).
Evicting a Squatter in Virginia
A squatter is a person who moves into a vacant or abandoned property without getting permission from the owner or paying rent. Squatters can usually be charged as criminal trespassers and be evicted like any other tenant. However, some squatters can receive the right to possession by meeting certain state-determined criteria. In Virginia, squatters must have lived in the property and held color of title for 15 continuous years to invoke Virginia squatters rights and claim right of possession (VA Code § 8.01-236). Their possession must also be:
- Hostile/Adverse—The squatter must not have a valid lease with the owner
- Actual—The squatter must be actively residing on the property
- Open and Notorious—The squatter is openly and obviously living there.
- Exclusive—The squatter does not share possession of the property with anyone else.
- Continuous—The squatter must hold continuous and uninterrupted possession.
While relatively rare, if a squatter meets all these criteria, they have “color of title”: the right of legal ownership without having a written deed to the property. They can file an action for adverse possession in Virginia to legally obtain the title to the property. However, in most cases, a squatter will not meet the criteria and can be removed. If you think a squatter is living in your vacant property in Virginia, you should:
- Call local law enforcement.
- Determine whether the person is a trespasser or a squatter.
- If the person is a trespasser, they can be removed immediately by a police officer.
- If the person is a squatter, you must contact the sheriff’s office.
- Send the squatter an eviction notice as per Virginia eviction law.
- If the squatter does not vacate the premises by the end of the notice period, file for eviction and follow the typical eviction process.
- Only the sheriff can physically remove a squatter from your property. You cannot do so, and neither can a police officer.
Virginia Eviction Cost Estimates
This chart shows estimates of the approximate cost of the eviction process in Virginia, according to civil procedure in the state and iPropertyManagement. A highly accurate estimate of an eviction is impossible to provide, as cases and circumstances vary so widely. Remember to factor in other losses due to an eviction as well, such as lost rent, time, and stress.
|Filing fee||Varies by county (typically around $50)|
|Service of court summons by sheriff||$12|
|Service of writ of eviction||$25, plus $12 for each additional tenant|
|Execution of writ of eviction||$25|
|Notice of appeal filing fee||$50|
|Average locksmith fees||$160|
|Storage fees for abandoned property||Varies|
|Tenant turnover costs||Varies|
Virginia Eviction Time Estimates
The chart below shows an estimate of the duration of each part of the eviction process in Virginia. Keep in mind that the length of eviction cases varies widely depending on the complexity of the eviction, the court’s current caseload, and whether or not the tenant contests or appeals the lawsuit.
|Eviction notice period||0-30 days|
|Eviction hearing||Within 21-30 days of the filing date (15 for cases based on criminal drug activity)|
|Issuance of writ of restitution||Immediately after trial|
|Appeal period||10 days|
|Time to quit after writ is posted||72 hours|
|Execution of writ of eviction||15-30 days after judgment is entered|
- Summons for Unlawful Detainer (Civil Claim for Eviction)
- Request for Writ of Eviction in Unlawful Detainer Proceedings
- Virginia General District Court Civil Forms and Instructions – This page is a list of downloadable forms required for actions in Virginia District Courts.
The eviction process in any state can be long and complex, so hiring an eviction attorney is advised in most cases. It’s also important to note that municipalities and local governments often have stricter laws and requirements for landlords, so be sure to check local statutes as well as state ones. However, by reviewing the legal procedures and Virginia laws on eviction, you can feel more confident pursuing an eviction in this state.
Innago does not provide legal advice. The content and materials provided in this article are for general informational purposes only and may not be the most up-to-date information.