What Is the Eviction Process in Virginia? Our Experts Explain

Osprey Property Management   |   date June 2023

Published May 2021. Updated June 8, 2023.

As a property owner, tenant eviction is inevitable. Some common reasons that can lead to this include nonpayment of rent and negligent property damage.

If you find yourself with a problematic Virginia tenant and need to evict them, you must follow a certain process. Ignoring Virginia's rules can lead to derailing the process or, worse, land you a lawsuit for damages.

Are you prepared to legally remove a renter from your property if a situation requires it? Today, our property management experts will take you through the entire eviction process in Coastal Virginia so that you avoid common pitfalls when evicting a tenant. 

Start By Serving an Eviction Notice

In Virginia, tenants have a right to a fair and judicial eviction process. 

In any tenant eviction, the first step is serving an eviction notice. This notice informs a tenant about the lease violation they've committed and offers them various options. 

Pay or Quit

Nonpayment of rent is one of the top reasons for tenant eviction. In this case, the state of Virginia requires landlords to serve a 5-day Notice to Pay or Quit. This document tells the tenant they have five days to either pay the outstanding rent debt or move out of the property. 

If they choose to pay the overdue rent, then no further action is needed on your part. However, if they don't pay and refuse to move out, you can move to court for further intervention. 

30-Day Cure or Quit

For lease violations involving illegal alterations to the property or keeping unauthorized pets, you must serve the tenant a 30-day Cure or Quit Notice. Likewise, it gives the tenant two options: fix the violation or move out. 

Again, if they choose to fix the violation, you must stop further eviction proceedings immediately. However, if they don't resolve the issue and refuse to move out, you can move to court for further action. 

Unconditional Quit

Another common lease violation involves excessive property damage. As a Virginia landlord, in a case like this, you must serve the tenant with an Unconditional Quit Notice.

Unlike the previous two notices, this one doesn't give the tenant an option to cure the violation. Their only option is to move out. You can move to court and seek their intervention if they don't. 

For gross lease violations like illegal drug-related activities, you are not required to serve the tenant with any notice. You can immediately move to court and file for their removal. 


Close-up of documents handed to a person, eviction notice concept.

When Can You Remove a Tenant Without Cause? 

As much as you might be ready for your tenant to get out of your property, rental owners cannot just wake up one day, decide you no longer want the tenant in your property and change the locks. To remove your tenant, you need a legitimate reason like failure to pay rent or serious lease violation. 

Without a legitimate reason, the best you can do is be patient until the lease expires, then choose not to offer a renewal to the tenant so they have to move out.

Generally, rental contracts run month-to-month or on a fixed-term basis. A month-to-month agreement is usually referred to as a rental agreement, while a fixed-term one is referred to as a fixed-term lease agreement. 

Monthly agreements make it easier to remove a bad tenant since the lease is only good for 30 days at a time and can be ended by either the landlord or renter with appropriate notice. This means you can remove a tenant without cause simply by letting them know they can't stay for another month.

To terminate a month-to-month agreement, you must serve the tenant with the appropriate notice, usually at least 30 days. You may then seek help from the court if they insist on staying put. 

However, to terminate a fixed-term lease early, property owners must have a valid reason (as mentioned above) and work through the legal eviction process and court system.

Tenant Eviction Defenses in the State of Virginia 

In some cases, a tenant may decide to put up a fight against their eviction. Property owners should be aware of common eviction defenses in Virginia to avoid handling a removal the wrong way. Without following the legal eviction process in Virginia, property owners can face lawsuits and could have to let bad renters stay in a property.

1. You tried to evict them yourself.

No matter the violation, you cannot evict a tenant from the unit on your own. The only person with authority to carry out the legal eviction process is a sheriff through a court order.

If you attempt to shut off the utilities or block their access to the property, a court would potentially rule that you have "constructively evicted" your tenant. 

All forms of constructive evictions are illegal.

2. You failed to follow the right eviction procedure.

Landlords must follow the proper eviction procedure if they wish to succeed in their efforts. Making a procedural mistake can lead to the automatic dismissal of the eviction suit. When this happens, you may have to redo the entire process all over again. 

Common procedural mistakes include failing to serve the correct eviction notice and making errors in court filings. 

A man with documents preparing for the legal eviction process concept.

3. You are retaliating against your tenant.

All forms of tenant retaliation are illegal in the state of Virginia.

For instance, rental property owners can't retaliate against a tenant for joining or organizing a tenants' union. You also can't retaliate against a tenant for complaining to a government agency about a safety, health, or building code violation.

4. The tenant is a victim of domestic abuse.

Under certain circumstances, Virginia landlords cannot terminate the tenancy of a tenant who is a victim of domestic violence. That said, domestic violence victims must take the necessary steps to meet the requirements.

5. The tenant fixed the violation.

As mentioned, you must immediately stop the eviction proceedings once a tenant fixes a violation. If you don't, your tenant can use that as justification against the eviction when seeking a lawsuit against you for unlawful removal from the property.

6. You failed to perform your responsibilities as the landlord.

Virginia Beach property management experts can tell you that a tenant can use your unresponsiveness to perform your maintenance responsibilities as a defense in court.

For example, if you are trying to remove a tenant due to unpaid rent, they may cite that they withheld rent because you failed to act on a repair or maintenance issue that impacted their health or safety. 

7. The eviction is a discriminatory act.

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for landlords to discriminate against tenants based on seven protected classes. The classes are sex, religion, race, color, national origin, disability, and familial status.

The state of Virginia also passed an amendment to this law to include elderliness as well.


landlord tenant handshakeLandlord-tenant handshake, Virginia Beach property management concept.

Property managers can tell you that trying to evict a tenant based on any one of these characteristics will render the process null and void. 

Avoid the Eviction Process With Better Tenant Screening

While we can't promise you'll never have to remove a renter from a property, it's possible to reduce the potential of bad tenants (and evictions) with the right processes and tenant qualifications.

Avoiding evictions starts with effective tenant screening. A thorough background check, including financial stability and rental history, is crucial.

Additionally, implementing a structured interview process helps to gauge reliability. Advanced tools like AI can assist in risk assessment.

Effective tenant screening can lead to a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship, reducing the chances of eviction and legal troubles. With the right practices, property owners can protect their rental properties, and tenants can enjoy a stable living environment.

Let Our Virginia Beach Property Management Experts Help You With Evictions

Removing a renter legally requires the right experience while following the legal process. However, property owners should work with an attorney and a property manager to avoid going through the process alone or making a critical mistake.

Do you still have more questions about evicting a tenant from a Coastal Virginia rental property? If you do, Osprey Property Management can help. We understand Virginia tenancy laws and can help you handle all your property's legal aspects, including a tenant eviction. Reach out soon to connect!

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