Understanding Eviction Laws in Richmond, VA


Eviction is a legal process that allows landlords to remove tenants from a rental property for violating the lease agreement or not paying rent. Eviction laws provide rules and procedures that landlords must follow before forcibly removing tenants.

In Richmond, Virginia, landlords must have proper grounds for eviction and give tenants sufficient notice before filing for eviction in court. Tenants have opportunities to avoid eviction by remedying lease violations or paying back rent. If an eviction lawsuit is filed, tenants can defend themselves in court.

Understanding eviction rules in Richmond can help both landlords and tenants navigate the eviction process smoothly. This guide covers key aspects of Richmond eviction laws, including notice requirements, the eviction timeline, legal defenses for tenants, and alternatives to eviction. Read on to learn about the eviction process and tenant rights in Richmond. To learn more, you also check out The Hidden Dangers of Real Estate Investing in Richmond, VA, which includes What is Squatting, Working with an Experienced Real Estate Attorney, Partnering with a Property Management Company, and Understanding Local Zoning Laws.

Reasons For Eviction

In Virginia, a landlord can legally evict a tenant for a few key reasons:

Nonpayment of rent – If a tenant fails to pay rent on time as outlined in the lease agreement, the landlord has the right to begin the eviction process. The landlord must provide proper written notice of nonpayment and allow the tenant a short window (usually 5 days) to pay before proceeding with a formal eviction filing.

Lease violations – If a tenant violates any provision in the lease, such as having an unauthorized pet, guest, or making unauthorized alterations, the landlord can move to evict based on this breach of contract. Proper notice must be given in writing explaining the violation.

End of lease term – If a fixed-term lease is ending and the tenant has not vacated the property or signed a new lease, the landlord can start the eviction process for holding over past the end of the lease. Virginia requires landlords provide a minimum 30 days’ notice for tenants to vacate once a lease expires.

Notice Requirements

Before a landlord can file for eviction, they must provide the tenant with proper written notice. The notice must specify the reason for eviction and give the tenant an opportunity to correct any lease violations.

For nonpayment of rent, landlords must provide a 5-day notice to pay rent or vacate. This gives the tenant 5 days to pay the rent in full or move out.

For other lease violations, a 10-day notice is required. This gives the tenant 10 days to correct the issue, such as getting rid of an unauthorized pet or guest. If they fix the violation within 10 days, the notice is voided.

If the lease violation cannot be fixed, such as engaging in criminal activity, the landlord can give a 30-day notice to vacate without an opportunity to cure.

The notice must be properly served to the tenant, either by certified mail, hand delivery to the tenant, or posting on the property. If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the landlord can then proceed with filing for eviction.

Eviction Process Timeline

Once a landlord decides to evict a tenant, there is a legal process that must be followed in Virginia. Here are the key steps in the eviction timeline:

  • Notice Served: The eviction process starts with the landlord serving the tenant with a written notice to vacate. In Virginia, landlords must give tenants a 5-day notice for non-payment of rent and a 30-day notice for other lease violations. The notice must clearly state the reason for eviction and the date by which the tenant must move out.
  • Court Hearing: If the tenant does not move out by the deadline in the notice, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer lawsuit with the general district court. The court will schedule a hearing, which both parties must attend. At the hearing, the judge will hear arguments from both sides and make a ruling on the eviction.
  • Sheriff Performs Eviction: If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, the court will issue a writ of possession. This authorizes the sheriff’s department to remove the tenant and their belongings from the rental property. The sheriff will schedule the eviction, usually within a few weeks of the court order. On the eviction date, the sheriff will supervise as the landlord changes the locks and removes the tenant’s belongings.

The entire legal eviction process usually takes 2-6 weeks from start to finish in Virginia. It’s important for both landlords and tenants to understand the timeline and procedures to exercise their rights. Proper notice and documentation is essential for navigating the eviction process successfully.

Tenant Defenses

Tenants in Richmond have several options to fight an eviction and potentially avoid losing their home. The main defenses include:

Repaying Back Rent

If the eviction is for nonpayment of rent, tenants may be able to stop the eviction by repaying all rent owed, plus any late fees outlined in the lease. This is known as the “right of redemption” – tenants have the right to redeem their tenancy by becoming current on rent. The full payment must be made by the court date to assert this defense.

Landlord Violations

If the landlord has failed to maintain the property or violated terms of the lease, tenants can raise this as a defense against the eviction. Examples include failure to make repairs, violating tenant privacy rights, or attempting an illegal lockout. Tenants should carefully document any violations or neglect. Evidence like photos, repair requests, and witnesses will help support these claims.


Landlords cannot evict tenants for exercising legal tenant rights, such as requesting repairs or filing complaints. If an eviction comes soon after asserting these rights, the tenant may argue the eviction is retaliation. However, the tenant will need evidence to prove the eviction is retaliatory versus a valid reason like nonpayment of rent.


Landlords cannot evict tenants for discriminatory reasons based on protected characteristics like race, religion, family status, or disability. If a tenant feels the eviction is discriminatory, they can raise this defense and seek evidence to support the claim. This may buy time and potentially invalidate the eviction.

Eviction Records

Eviction records are public record and can show up on background checks and credit reports. This can make it difficult for a tenant with an eviction record to find housing in the future.

Landlords often run background and credit checks on potential tenants before approving an application. If those checks reveal a past eviction, even if the eviction was justified, the landlord may deny the application. Some landlords have a strict no-eviction policy when screening tenants.

An eviction can stay on a tenant’s record for years. The exact length of time varies, but it’s typically at least 7 years. In some cases, it can be as long as 10 years before an eviction is removed from a background check.

This is problematic for tenants who have been evicted, as it severely limits their rental options. Some tenants are unable to find any landlords willing to accept them with an eviction on their record. As a result, evicted tenants sometimes struggle with homelessness or are forced to accept substandard housing.

While evictions are public record, tenants do have some recourse. If a landlord denies an application based on incorrect or outdated information in a background check, the tenant can dispute it. This involves providing evidence to the background check company that the eviction record is inaccurate.

Tenants should be aware that an eviction judgment will likely impact their ability to find housing in the future. This is an important consideration when deciding whether to contest an eviction case or work with the landlord to mitigate the situation.

Alternatives For Landlords

Landlords in Richmond have a few alternatives to eviction that can help them avoid the costly and lengthy eviction process.

Payment Plans

If a tenant is struggling to pay rent on time, landlords can offer flexible payment plans. This allows the tenant to pay the rent owed in installments over an agreed upon schedule. Payment plans can help tenants get caught up while allowing landlords to still collect the rent due.

Cash for Keys Agreements

Cash for keys agreements involve the landlord paying the tenant to voluntarily vacate the property by a certain date. This avoids having to go through formal eviction proceedings. The landlord provides cash, often a few hundred to a thousand dollars, and the tenant returns the keys and moves out on time.


Mediation involves a neutral third party facilitating discussions between the landlord and tenant. The goal is negotiating a mutual agreement, like a move-out date, payment plan, or lease termination. Going through mediation can resolve issues without an eviction on the tenant’s record. The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development offers a landlord-tenant mediation program.

Alternatives For Tenants

If you are facing potential eviction as a tenant, there are some alternatives you can consider before going through the eviction process:

Seek Rental Assistance

Many communities have rental assistance programs available for low-income individuals or families struggling to pay rent. These programs provide short-term financial assistance, usually in the form of a grant, to help cover a month or two of rent. Look into whether your city or county has an emergency rental assistance program. There are also some statewide and national programs, like the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, that provide this type of help.

To qualify, you’ll likely need to provide documents showing your income, rental agreement, and need for assistance. The program will then send funds directly to your landlord to cover the rent you owe. This can help avoid eviction while you get back on your feet financially.

Negotiate with Your Landlord

Before an eviction is filed, try negotiating directly with your landlord. Explain your situation and financial hardship and ask if they would be willing to work with you. Many landlords want to avoid the eviction process as much as tenants.

See if you can work out a payment plan to pay back rent over time. Offer to sign a promissory note agreeing to the repayment terms. You may also ask for a temporary reduction in rent. Explain how you plan to improve your financial situation.

If the landlord agrees, get any negotiation in writing to avoid miscommunications. This good faith effort shows you take the situation seriously and may prevent formal eviction. Having open communication with your landlord can go a long way.

Legal Resources

There are several legal resources that tenants facing eviction in Richmond can turn to for help and advice.

Legal Aid Organizations

  • Central Virginia Legal Aid Society – Provides free legal services in civil cases to low-income residents. They can advise tenants on their rights and responsibilities, review leases, and assist with eviction cases.
  • RVA Eviction Lab – A partnership between University of Richmond School of Law, VCU L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, and nonprofits. Offers legal information and services related to evictions.

Tenant Rights Groups

  • Virginia Poverty Law Center – A nonprofit legal services organization that advocates for low-income Virginians. They work to expand housing rights.
  • Tenants and Workers United – A tenant advocacy organization based in Richmond fighting for affordable housing. They provide counseling and support for tenants facing eviction.
  • Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) – A nonprofit civil rights organization that provides housing counseling and assistance with discrimination issues.

These organizations can help provide tenants with information on their rights, legal options, and support when dealing with eviction notices or landlord disputes in Richmond. Consulting with legal aid groups is recommended for tenants seeking to understand the eviction process and defend against unlawful evictions.


Understanding eviction laws in Richmond is crucial for both tenants and landlords. This guide has covered the key reasons landlords can evict tenants, the required notice periods, the typical eviction timeline, defenses tenants may raise, how eviction records can impact future housing, and alternatives to eviction that both parties can consider.

The eviction process is complex, with many legal requirements and potential barriers. Going through a formal eviction can be expensive, time-consuming and stressful for all involved. As we’ve seen, there are options like payment plans, lease takeovers, and mediation that may enable tenants and landlords to avoid eviction. Being informed on the law can help both parties navigate challenging rental situations while protecting their rights.

For tenants, knowing eviction policies, proper notice periods, and potential defenses are essential to advocate for yourself and avoid unnecessary displacement. For landlords, following proper procedures and exploring alternatives can limit vacancies and legal issues. Overall, a nuanced understanding of eviction laws allows everyone to approach rental relationships knowledgeably and make the most informed choices. With the right information, evictions can often be avoided or handled smoothly when truly necessary. If we have any questions, please give us a call – we are Home Buyers in Richmond, VA.

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