Virginia Eviction LawsThe laws in Virginia regarding eviction are governed by Article 5 (Landlord Remedies) of the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. This Act was amended and updated in 2010. If you are a landlord in Virginia, it is a good idea to review this law, in particular the section on Landlord Remedies (Article 5).
Virginia Eviction NoticeThe first step in the Virginia eviction process is serving the tenant with a written eviction notice. If the landlord is evicting the tenant for non-payment of rent (most common reason), then the landlord must serve the tenant with a 5 Day Notice to Pay or Quit, also called a "Pay or Quit." This notice tells the tenant that if they do not pay the full rent in the 5 day time period, then they will be sued for eviction. If the landlord is evicting the tenant for breaching the lease in a manner that affects health and safety, the landlord must serve a 30 Day Notice that tells the tenant they have 21 days to remedy the breach or else the lease will terminate at the end of the 30 days. This confusing notice is called a "21/30 notice." If the landlord is evicting the tenant for committing a breach that is not remediable, then the landlord can simply serve a 30 Day Notice that says the lease terminates in 30 days. If the landlord is evicting the tenant for breaching the lease in a criminal or willful manner in a way that threatens health and safety, the landlord can give an Immediate Notice of Termination, which says the lease is terminated immediately. If the landlord wants to end a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord needs to give a 30 Day Notice. If the landlord wants to end a week-to-week tenancy, the landlord needs to give a 7 Day Notice.
Unlawful DetainerOnce the landlord gives the tenant notice, and the tenant has not vacated after the notice period, the landlord needs to head to Court. It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant without going through court proceedings. Most evictions are filed in the General District Court for the jurisdiction in which the property sits. Sometimes eviction cases are filed in Circuit Court. The landlord will file the Unlawful Detainer case with the clerk of the court, and the court will issue a "Summons." The Unlawful Detainer and Summons will be served (delivered) to the tenant by a Deputy Sheriff, either in person, or by posting on the property and mailing. The Summons will tell the tenant when and where the court hearing will be.
The HearingThe eviction hearing is where each side can present their case to the judge. If the tenant does not show up, the landlord can win by default, and can even get a Writ of Possession issued that day. In order for the landlord to prove their case, they should bring all documents and witnesses to the hearing. This includes the lease, a copy of the notice that was served, rent receipts, etc. The judge will make a determination based on testimony and evidence. If the judge rules for the tenant, then the tenant can stay. If the judge rules for the landlord, the landlord will win possession of the property.
Writ of PossessionOnce the landlord wins possession at the hearing, the tenant will have to move. If the tenant does not move, the landlord can obtain a "Writ of Possession" from the court. The Writ of Possession tells the Sheriff to physically evict the tenant. The Sheriff will serve the Writ of Possession on the tenant, and it will give the tenant 72 hours to vacate. If they do not vacate by then, the Sheriff will physically remove them. If this happens, the tenant will have 24 hours to contact the Sheriff to come back to the property and remove the remainder of their belongings.