Top Terms for Virginia Leases and Rental Agreements
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Virginia landlords (with some exceptions, such as those who rent out single-family residences) must follow many state laws when renting out apartments or other residential property. Your lease or rental agreement is a key legal document between landlord and tenant, full of crucial business details that are governed by state law, such as the amount of security deposit you charge (Virginia sets a limit of two months’ rent).
Here are some of the top terms to include in your Virginia lease or rental agreement.
Terms to Include
1. Names of Tenants
Every adult who lives in the rental unit, including both members of a married or unmarried couple, should sign the lease or rental agreement and be explicitly named as tenants. This makes each tenant legally responsible for the full amount of the rent, proper use of the property, and other key terms.
2. Limits on Occupancy
Your agreement should clearly specify that the rental unit is the residence of only the tenants who have signed the lease and their minor children. This guarantees your right to determine who lives in your property -- ideally, people whom you have screened and approved -- and to limit the number of occupants. The value of this clause is that it gives you grounds to evict a tenant who moves in a friend or relative, or sublets the unit, without your permission.
3. Term of the Tenancy
Every Virginia rental document should state whether it is a rental agreement or a fixed-term lease. Here’s the difference:
- Rental agreements usually run from month-to-month and self-renew unless terminated by the landlord or tenant. If you use a rental agreement, it should specify how much notice you will give the tenant to change or terminate the tenancy, and how much notice the tenant must give you to end it. Both notice periods are 30 days in Virginia.
- Leases, on the other hand, set a specific beginning and expiration date. A lease obligates both landlord and tenant to a specific term, typically a year.
4. Rent and Related Issues
Your lease or rental agreement should provide specific details on the rent, including the amount; when rent is due (typically, the first of the month), and whether there’s any grace period; how rent is to be paid, such as by mail to your office; acceptable payment methods (such as personal check only); and whether late fees will be due if rent is not paid on time and the amount of the fee. You should also specify any bounced-check fee you’ll charge if the tenant gives you a check that the bank will not honor. Under Virginia law, you may not charge more than the sum of $50 plus the amount that the bank charged you for processing the check.
5. Security Deposit
To avoid confusion over the use and return of deposits, your Virginia lease or rental agreement should be clear on all the details, including:
- The dollar amount and use of the security deposit. Virginia limits the amount to two months’ rent.
- When and how you will return the deposit. Under Virginia law, you must itemize and return the deposit within 45 days after the tenant leaves.
- Interest payments. Virginia law requires you to pay interest on tenants’ security deposits in certain instances and specifies the rate (which changes yearly).
6. Repairs and Maintenance
To avoid tenant rent-withholding and other hassles (especially over security deposits), it’s important to clearly set out responsibilities for repair and maintenance in your lease or rental agreement, including:
- the tenant's responsibility to keep the rental premises clean and sanitary and to pay for any damage caused by his or her abuse or neglect
- a requirement that the tenant alert you to defective or dangerous conditions in the rental property, with specific details on your procedures for handling complaint and repair requests, and
- restrictions on tenant repairs and alterations, such as adding new electrical outlets without your permission.
Under Virginia law, landlords must inspect the premises and document any pre-existing damage within five days of the tenant moving in.
7. Entry to Rental Property
To avoid tenant claims of violation of privacy rights, your lease or rental agreement should clarify your legal right of access to the property -- for example, to make repairs -- and state how much advance notice you will provide the tenant before entering. With some exceptions (such as in cases of emergency), Virginia law requires that you give tenants at least 24 hours’ notice of intended entry, unless that is impossible.
8. Restrictions on Tenant Illegal Activity
To avoid trouble among your tenants, prevent property damage, and limit your exposure to lawsuits from residents and neighbors, you should include an explicit lease or rental agreement clause prohibiting disruptive behavior, such as excessive noise, and illegal activity, such as drug dealing.
If you do not allow pets, be sure your lease or rental agreement is clear on the subject. If you do allow pets, you should identify any special restrictions, such as a limit on the size or number of pets or any special pet rules.
Federal law require landlords to make certain lead-based paint disclosures before tenants move in. Virginia also requires additional disclosure requirements, including visible evidence of mold.
11. Person with Authority to Receive Legal Papers
The state of Virginia requires you to tell the tenant to whom (such as the landlord or a property manager) the tenant should give notices and demands (such as requests for maintenance) and legal papers (such as a court summons).
12. Other Restrictions
Be sure your lease or rental agreement complies with all relevant state and local Virginia laws including health and safety codes, occupancy rules, and anti-discrimination laws. Any other legal restrictions, such as limits on the type of business a tenant may run from home, should also be spelled out in the lease or rental agreement. Important rules and regulations covering parking and use of common areas should be specifically mentioned in the lease or rental agreement.
Where to Find Virginia Lease and Rental Forms
For Virginia rental documents, including leases and rental agreements, see the Real Estate and Rental Property Forms section of Nolo. These ready-to-use legal forms include detailed, clause-by-clause instructions that cover the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in Virginia. Options include the following: