Disclaimer: The information below is provided as a general guide and is not meant to be legal advice nor as specific guidance to landlords. For more information, The Virginia Landlord Tenant Act may be found here: https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacodepopularnames/virginia-residential-landlord-and-tenant-act/
Owning an investment property is one of the best ways of earning passive income. However, being a landlord also comes with a lot of responsibilities. You are responsible for your property, your tenants, and the associated legal duties.
Laws and regulations are necessary to safeguard our general safety. They create the foundation of an organized society. A healthy landlord-tenant relationship emanates from mutual respect, appreciation, and the implementation of binding laws and regulations.
The tenant-landlord laws differ from state to state. While the landlords are generally aware of the common laws, they might not know the niche laws that are applicable in particular states or counties. What’s more, these laws are constantly in flux.
The most important laws to know, as a landlord in Roanoke are:
Lease Agreement Rules
The contractual foundation that states the legal terms of your association with your tenant is the lease. This agreement consists of all the rules and regulations that you and the tenant are bound to follow.
It is drafted in legal or formal terms that state the prime details related to the tenancy. These include the amount of rent, the amount of deposit, and the duration of the renter’s occupancy, among others.
The terms stated in the lease must abide by the federal, state, and local tenancy laws. The purpose of the lease agreement is to avoid disputes and establish a peaceful and cooperative relationship between the landlord and resident.
Fair Housing Act
As a landlord based in the United States, you are obligated to follow the Fair Housing Act, one of the most important laws in the country. This Act protects the citizens from any kind of biased residential segregation. According to the Fair Housing Act, a landlord cannot discriminate against potential occupants based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disabilities.
Additionally, the FHA laws in Virginia have been amended to include elderliness, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, and source of funds (including any assistance, benefit, or subsidy program.including any assistance, benefit, or subsidy program). This addition states that it is illegal to discriminate against a potential lessee whose rent is fully paid by or supported by a lawful government entity like the Virginia rent relief program or a non-government program.
However, you as the landlord get to set standards, and choose the right resident. You have the right to deny occupancy to a potential tenant based on:
- A bad credit history
- Past behavior in association with previous tenancy (inconsistency in paying the rent, or violations of the pet policies)
- Negative references from the previous property owners (if the occupant has caused trouble or annoyance to the people living in the neighborhood, or has damaged the property tremendously.)
Also, there are exceptions for the owners who are also the occupants of the property, if it has less than or equal to four units, or is a single-family home.
State Rent Rules
The rental agreement or the contract should hold key details related to the rent. These details or terms must be compatible with the Virginia State Rent Rules. The key rent rules that you must know before renting your Roanoke property and must mention in the rental agreement are:
- The Cost of Rent:
It has a place of key importance in the contract. In Virginia, there is no upper limit on the rent. The communities with rent control cease to exist in the state.
- The Date of Payment:
It should be clearly mentioned. You also should mention when the rent can be paid, if the due date happens to be a weekend or a public holiday.
- The Location:
You must clarify where you would like to receive the rent. For example, mention in the contract if you expect the rent to be mailed to your home address.
- The Mode of Payment:
Clarify what mode of payment is preferred by you. Either cash, or a check, online transaction, or a credit card payment.
- Notice Period to Increase the Rent:
Landlords in Virginia are mandated by the law to give a 30-day notice to the tenants for a rent increase. However, this can differ if you and the resident agree to a different notice period. Nevertheless, the period agreed upon should be stated in the contract specifications.
- Bounced Checks:
If the check bounces, you can charge the resident a fee. However, it should not be more than $50.
- Anti-Discriminatory Laws for Increase in Rent:
A landlord may not retaliate by increasing rent or decreasing services or by bringing or threatening to bring an action for possession or by causing a termination of the rental agreement pursuant to § 55.1-1253 or 55.1-1410 after he has knowledge that (i) the tenant has complained to a governmental agency charged with responsibility for enforcement of a building or housing code of a violation applicable to the premises materially affecting health or safety, (ii) the tenant has made a complaint to or filed an action against the landlord for a violation of any provision of this chapter, (iii) the tenant has organized or become a member of a tenant’s organization, or (iv) the tenant has testified in a court proceeding against the landlord. (VA Code Ann. § 55.1-1258. Retaliatory conduct prohibited https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacodepopularnames/virginia-residential-landlord-and-tenant-act/)
If the tenant fails to pay the rent for your Roanoke property, you must serve the Tenant with a five day Pay or Quit notice which provides the tenant with written notice of your intent to terminate the lease if no payment is made. Once the five day time period has passed, you have the right to file for an unlawful detainer.
- Habitable Housing Laws
Following the ‘Implied Warranty of Habitability’ rule is mandatory in Virginia. It implies that the landlord must keep the place livable for the resident. It is based on the grounds that every inhabitant deserves to reside in a livable home. By livable, the laws stipulate:
- the home should have fundamental structural constituents like walls, floors, or stairs, that are safe and intact
- the home should consist of safe and operating basic electrical appliances services like plumbing, heating, AC, and electricals.
- the common areas in the house like stairways and porch must be maintained well.
- there should be a supply of cold and hot water in the house
- a fair amount of heat should be provided according to the weather and the needs of the residents
- the dweller should be prevented from foreseeable environmental hazards like disease-causing plants or pesticides.
- the home should have safe doors, and safety measures against criminal invasions must be assured.
- the property should be safe from any creatures or vermin.
Regular maintenance, inspections and checks are essential to make sure that your Roanoke property is habitable for the occupants.
- State Security Deposit Limits and Returns
According to the Virginia State Security Deposit Law, the amount of deposit cannot be more than two months’ rent. The time allocated for you to return the rent is 45 days after the occupant moves out. It is suggested you follow the laws particularly, and that you mention the factors in the lease contract to avoid any Security Deposit Disputes.
You can keep an itemized checklist to analyze the condition of the property before and after the tenancy period. This should be supported by pictures and other documentation. In case of a Security Deposit Dispute, these proofs will hold up your side.
Tenants’ Privacy Protection Laws
The Virginia Landlord Tenant Act (VLTA) classifies Landlord access in four categories which are (1) access to show the property to prospective tenants or purchasers, (2) access to inspect the dwelling unit, (3) access to make non-emergency repairs, and (4) access to make emergency repairs. The VLTA states that tenants shall not unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter the dwelling unit to show the property to prospective tenants or purchasers, access to inspect the dwelling unit, and access to make non-emergency repairs. However, the landlord may make access without the consent of the tenant in the case of an emergency.
Regarding access for non-emergency reasons, the VLTA states, “The landlord shall give the tenant notice of his intent to enter and may enter only at reasonable times. Unless impractical to do so, the landlord shall give the tenant at least 72 hours’ notice of routine maintenance to be performed that has not been requested by the tenant.” This 72 hour recommended notice period is not applicable for tenant requested maintenance.
The Virginia State Law gives you the authority to evict the tenant on two different grounds.
- State Laws on Unconditional Quit Terminations
If a tenant violates the lease clauses, or consistently violates a lease clause, damages the property, or uses the property for illegal purposes, you can use the unconditional quit notice.
You can ask the resident to leave your Roanoke rental property immediately if he breaches the lease by committing a criminal act that could be dangerous for others’ safety. However, you must give them 30 days’ unconditional quit notice if they continue to violate the lease.
- State Laws on Termination For Violation of Lease
The tenant can be evicted for violation of the lease, and more specifically, for non-payment of rent. You should give them 21 days to cure the rental agreement violation before filing for eviction.
If they fail to cure the lease in 21 days, you must give them an extra 9 days to move out, before filing an eviction.
- No Cause Termination
No-cause termination is not permitted in Virginia. You cannot evict the tenant for no reason. If you do not have a legit reason to evict the occupant, you must wait for the lease term to end.
Federal Disclosure Laws
The federal organizations involved in making these laws are the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It is your responsibility to disclose the environmental hazards, especially the lead-based paint hazards to the tenants. If you fail to do so, you might have to face a hefty fine, as the occupants’ health and safety are at risk.
The Federal Cares Act
Due to the global pandemic, millions of residents have suffered across the globe. Hence, to protect the tenants, the Federal Cares Act was passed and was started on 27th March 2020.
The federal assistance provides several covered rental properties with a 120-day moratorium period on evictions. These include the ones that are filed for nonpayment of rent, for extra charges or late fees for the nonpayment of rent, and issuing eviction notices.
The covered properties are those included in the covered housing program described in the Violence Against the Women Act of 1994, the rural housing voucher program of the Housing Act of 1949, or has a Federally backed mortgage loan or multi-family loan.
More Information: COVID19: Renter Protections Under the CARES Act
Landlords must be aware of their rights and responsibilities as well as those of the tenants, to avoid any legal repercussions.
To make sure that you are following the process lawfully, it is best to seek help from legal attorneys and real estate experts. Property managers are experienced in working with landlords. They can help you make the right decision, and help you stick to the legal regulations throughout your rental investment journey.
Consulting a trustworthy agency like Lawson Realty Group can make your journey as a property owner easy and hassle free. We have been in the business for over 32 years. We know the importance of legal amendments in the real estate market. We can guide you at every step, to ensure that you don’t miss any significant legal details.
For more information on ltips that can save the Roanoke landlords time and money, contact Lawson Realty Group.