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Understanding the Tenant-Landlord Laws in Hampton Roads

Understanding the Tenant-Landlord Laws in Hampton Roads

Whether you are a property owner or a tenant in Hampton Roads, you are bound to have faced an issue with your rental property at some point. The problem could be regarding the property, a conflict with the other party, or some disagreement about the rules regarding rent payment, maintenance, or evictions. 

These bones of contention are bound to occur. However, most such issues can be easily resolved by simply following the landlord-tenant laws of Virginia. As a matter of fact, you have a legal obligation to follow the rules and responsibilities established by the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act regardless of whether you are a landlord or a tenant in Hampton Roads.  

Introduction To Landlord-Tenant Laws in Hampton Roads

The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act protects all tenants and landlords from the violation of their rights. It highlights the rights, securities, and duties of both the parties. Any breach of these rules can cause conflicts or maybe even lead to a lawsuit. Therefore, before signing a lease, both the landlord and the tenant are encouraged to thoroughly read and understand the rental agreement, along with the legal implications for breaking the lease.

Here is a quick overview of the tenant-landlord laws in Hampton Roads that you can refer to make sure you are not breaking any rules.

Rules Regarding Tenant Application and Fees 

A landlord can ask the applicant or a prospective tenant to provide detailed information about themselves. This information determines whether or not the applicant is eligible to become a tenant. The landlord can also ask for identity proofs, like a passport, driver’s license, or other forms of photo identification.

However, the landlord is forbidden from photocopying any US government-issued ID provided by the applicant. They are only allowed to physically verify the credential and not copy it in any way. The landlord can also charge an application fee to the tenancy applicants. However, the amount of the fee cannot exceed $50.

Terms and Conditions of The Lease Agreement 

A landlord and tenant need to discuss the tenancy terms at length and then proceed to draft a lease agreement before finalizing their decision. The lease agreement should clearly mention the rent charged by the landlord, charges for late payment of rent, automatic renewal rules, and the duration of notice before vacating the unit or terminating the rental agreement. 

It can also include the requirements for notice of intent to vacate or terminate the rental agreement. The lease should state all requirements from the landlord and the tenant in detail to avoid any ambiguity.

This rental agreement should contain all the relevant terms that can influence the landlord-tenant relationship. It can also have several clauses and subclauses to discuss the rules of each topic at length. The lease agreement will only be effective once both parties sign it. If the landlord does not offer the renter an agreement, the tenancy is conducted under different terms and conditions. 

Rent Payment Rules and Late Fees

As mentioned in the lease, the tenant is obligated to pay the rent in monthly installments and can be charged late fees if not paid by the 5th of the month. The landlord is then entitled to a late charge only if written in the rental agreement. However, this charge shall not exceed 10% of the periodic rent. 

Security Deposit Limit and Return

Although the landlord is allowed to charge a security deposit amount to the tenant, the deposit should not exceed a total amount equal to two months of rent. 

Rules Regarding Property Access 

The landlord must submit a 24-hours’ notice before entering the property premises. They also need to disclose the reason for visits, such as inspection, conducting repairs, showing units to other tenants, buyers, contractors, etc.

However, if the tenant refuses to allow the landlord into the property even after asking for lawful access, then the landlord can obtain injunctive relief to compel access. They can also choose to terminate the rental agreement. However, if the landlord makes an unlawful entry, the tenant can also take action to prevent such a thing from happening again. 

Inspection and Landlord Disclosure

As mentioned in the agreement, the landlord is supposed to conduct a move-in inspection jointly with the tenant. They are also required to submit a detailed report to the tenant that includes the itemized damages of the unit that existed before the tenant moved in. The report should be submitted within five days of the tenant occupying the unit. Within these five days, the tenant can object to some listed damages if they want to.

Here is what the landlord is required to disclose to the tenants - 

  • Mold 

The landlord must disclose the existence of mold if it is visible in any area. The tenant then can terminate the tenancy and not take possession of the unit. 

  • Zones and Areas 

The landlord should also disclose if the property is in a military area, noise zone, or accident-prone zone. Any tenant who does not obtain this disclosure from their landlord can terminate the lease within the first 30 days of signing the lease. 

  • Defective Drywall  

The landlord also has to disclose the existence of defective drywall, or the tenant can terminate the lease within 60 days after discovering its existence. 

  • Insecticide or Pesticide Use 

The landlord should give their tenant a written notice 48 hours before applying pesticide or insecticide at or around the rental dwelling.  

Maintenance of Habitable Premises by Landlord 

The landlord is required to maintain habitable premises for their tenants in accordance with Virginia landlord-tenant act. Here are a few rules that the landlord is required to follow.

  • The landlord should comply with the requirements of housing codes and health and safety codes

  • They should conduct necessary repairs and keep the premise habitable

  • The landlord should keep all the common areas shared by multiple families in multiple rentals situated close by clean and structurally safe

  • All electronics, plumbing, sanitary, HVAC systems, and appliances must be maintained safely to avoid dire consequences of negligence 

  • Adequate apparatus including cleaning equipment must be provided to the tenants to keep the rental premises clean

  • The landlord should provide a proper and adequate supply of running water 

  • The landlord must inspect the smoke alarms and safety systems regularly  

  • They should provide safety and security apparatus like deadbolts, and locking devices for the safety of the tenants 

Maintenance of Premises by Tenant

The landlord has to provide a copy of any written rental agreement and statement of tenant rights and responsibilities to the tenant within a month of signing the lease. According to it, the tenant is required to follow a few rules. Here are some of the important ones -  

  • The tenant should comply with all obligations according to building and housing codes and health and safety 

  • Tenant must keep the unit and premises free from insects and pests, or immediately notify the landlord if they see these in and around the property 

  • The tenant should keep the rental unit clean and regularly remove waste and garbage in a safe manner 

  • They must also keep all plumbing fixtures clean

  • The tenant must ensure that HVAC systems, electrical gadgets, and other appliances are used in a well-used and reasonable manner

  • The tenant must not deliberately destroy or deface the property. They must ensure that there is no negligence regarding property maintenance 

  • Tenant should not interfere with fire and safety response measures implemented by the landlord 

  • The tenant cannot make alterations within the unit without the approval of a landlord 

  • Tenants must not be the cause of disturbance. Instead, they must abide by all rules mentioned by the landlord

  • The tenant should not break the terms of the lease

Tenants’ Rights to Withhold Rent

The tenant can withhold rent if the landlord fails to take care of repairs or mend broken appliances. In short, the tenant can exercise their right to withhold rent from the landlord if the landlord fails to meet their terms as mentioned in the lease agreement. 

Termination and Eviction Rules

The Virginia state laws specify when and how a landlord may terminate a tenancy. The landlord can give the tenant an unconditional quit notice if the tenant has repeatedly violated the lease multiple times. The notice provides the tenant with 30 days to move out before the landlord can file for eviction.

All the rules, regulations, and boundaries regarding the tenancy should be highlighted in the lease to avoid any potential conflict between the landlord and the tenant as much as possible. 

Summing Up

gavel - law

Disputes between property owners and tenants can be very costly affairs. Additionally, they can also be time-consuming. To avoid such problems arising from a lack of understanding of the landlord-tenant laws, both the landlord and the tenant need to carefully consider the different state laws and rules applicable for Hampton Roads rentals and abide by them. 

If you are uncertain about how to proceed ahead, you can consider hiring a property manager. An experienced Hampton Roads property manager usually knows these laws inside and out and will help you avoid mistakes that can cause legal issues in the future. 

At Doud Realty Services, we assist both landlords and tenants and can help you with all services related to property management, including but not limited to lease drafting, evictions, overdue rents, tenant assertions, and others. We operate in Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Hampton Roads areas.

For more details, connect with us at Doud Realty Services.