Starting July 1, 2023, Virginia tenants may be entitled to additional protections under the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (VRLTA). These amendments to the law follow significant revisions to the VRLTA implemented in 2020. Here's what to know before the latest changes take effect.
Starting July 1, 2023, a new section of the Virginia Code will provide tenants the opportunity to terminate a new lease agreement and receive a full refund if, at the beginning of the tenancy, a condition exists in the rental unit that constitutes a fire hazard or serious threat to the life, health, or safety of tenants or occupants of the premises. Qualifying conditions may include an infestation of rodents or a lack of heat, hot or cold running water, electricity, or adequate sewage disposal facilities.
A tenant seeking the termination of the lease under this provision must give the landlord notice of intent to terminate the rental agreement within seven days of the date the tenant was to take possession of the rental unit. The landlord must then provide the tenant a refund of all deposits and rent paid on or before the fifteenth business day following the day on which (i) the termination notice is delivered to the landlord or (ii) the tenant vacates the dwelling unit, whichever occurs later.
Landlords may challenge the tenant's notice by providing the tenant written notice of his refusal to accept the tenant's termination of the rental agreement, along with the reasons for such refusal, within fifteen business days following the date on which such termination notice was delivered to the landlord.
Any tenant who has not taken possession or who has vacated the dwelling unit may file an action in relevant court to contest the landlord's refusal to accept the termination notice, if applicable. They may also file for the return of any deposits and rent paid to the landlord, and to allow for the prevailing party in any such action to recover reasonable attorney fees.
Another change is an amendment that will require landlords owning more than four rental units in Virginia to provide written notice to the tenant notifying him or her of any increase in rent during the subsequent rental agreement term. Notice must be given no less than 60 days prior to the end of the current rental agreement term, provided that such rental agreement contains an option to renew or an automatic renewal provision.
Keys and Fobs
Under a new section of the VRLTA, a landlord owning more than 200 rental units that are attached to the same piece of real property will be required to run a criminal background check on applicants for employment in any position that will have access to keys to apartments. Landlords will also be required to adopt a written policies and procedures for the storage, issuance, access, return, and deactivation of rental dwelling unit keys and electronic key codes.
Terminating Month-to-Month Tenancies
Month-to-month tenants residing in buildings that will soon be demolished or converted into condominiums will be entitled to a longer notice period. Starting July 1, 2023, Virginia code will require any owner of multifamily premises that fails to renew the greater of either 20 or more month-to-month tenancies or 50 percent of the month-to-month tenancies within a consecutive 30-day period in the same multifamily premises to serve written notice on each such tenant at least 60 days prior to allowing such tenancy to expire.
If you are a landlord or a tenant with questions about how changes to the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act might impact your pending legal matters, contact a qualified landlord-tenant attorney or real estate attorney in your area.