What does it mean to sign a lease for a home or apartment in Virginia? The relationship between tenants and landlords is regulated by the “Virginia Residential Landlord and tenant Act” of 1974 (http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacodepopularnames/virginia-residential-landlord-and-tenant-act/), in some federal laws, and in many local statutes and regulations. On signing a lease, you must be aware that you will automatically become subjected to all the above-mentioned rules which give you many rights but also many obligations. In summary:
As a tenant, you have the right of disclosure of some specific information like a detailed description of the condition of the premises, the identities of the owner and of those who may act on his or her behalf, the possible presence of mold or defective drywall, the existence of condominium plans, and the location of the building in a noise or accident potential zone.
As a tenant, you have to pay your landlord a security deposit that is intended to cover possible damages to the premises and to secure a form of immediate financial relief for the landlord in case of a break in the lease. Its amount cannot exceed two months’ rent and must be returned within 45 days after you have moved out, plus accrued interests at an annual rate of 4%.
As a tenant, you have the right to important repairs. This expression means any structural damage that breaks safety and health standards, like a leaking roof or a broken heater. If your landlord does not take care of important maintenance, you have the right to pay rent into a third party escrow holding account instead of your landlord. You should always still pay rent to avoid eviction.
As a tenant, you have the right to protection against landlord retaliation for your exercise of your legal rights. Typical situations are when the tenant complains about unsafe or illegal living conditions, or exerts the right to withdraw rent as the landlord failed to respect his obligations.
Landlords may terminate the contract in case of repeated violations of the lease upon 30 days written notice. There are other cases when the landlord may act that way which are specified by the law. Landlords also have a right to access rental property upon 24 hours’ notice.
In Virginia, a lease is supposed to have been stipulated for one year, except for the case when the landlord and the tenant agree on a different length. After the termination of the contract, the landlord has the right to change the terms and conditions of the lease, including the amount of the rent.
Tenant obligations are mainly to pay the rent and give back the property in the same condition as they got it. Ordinary maintenance and utility bills are typically responsibilities of the tenant, while it is up to the landlord to maintain the building structure and major systems. You have also to respect your neighbors and follow any reasonable rule set down by your landlord.
It is advisable to ask your landlord for a written receipt of each payment, especially if you pay cash. If something needs to be fixed, you must notify your landlord about the problem in writing. Certified email is considered as written notification.
If you are looking for a rental or are considering buying a home and just have some general questions about tenant or landlord rights or things like local taxes and regulations and local facilities, please feel free to contact us. Our team will be happy to help you.
Photo credit: http://www.legalaidnc.org/get-help/Pages/self-help-clinics/tenant-rights-clinic.aspx