A rental lease constitutes an agreement between a tenant and landlord and outlines the rights and responsibilities of each. Landlords reserve the right to evict tenants in certain instances, but must follow a legal protocol outlined by the laws of the state in which he resides. He cannot just force a tenant out through improper means such as changing locks or cutting off utility services. Virginia eviction law requires landlords to go through the court system to secure an eviction.
Landlords must provide their tenants proper written notice concerning the intent to evict. If the tenant has failed to pay rent, the landlord must provide at least five days written notice to the tenant requiring she either pay the amount due or leave within the five days following receipt of the notice. Any reason other than non-payment requires a 30-day notice. Upon receiving such a notice, the tenant has 21 days to remedy the problem or the landlord can begin eviction procedures.
Summons for Unlawful Detainer
If a tenant does not remedy the problem and fails to leave after receiving notice, the landlord must go to the General District Court (GDC) and file a summons for unlawful detainer. This summons will go to the tenant and will contain the time and date of the hearing as well as any financial damages the landlord seeks (unpaid rent, attorney's fees or damages). State law permits serving of the summons in three ways. The Deputy Sheriff can personally give it to the tenant or a household member at least 16 years old or post it on the front door. The court will also send the tenant a copy by first-class mail.
All eviction cases must go through a hearing. Tenants who do not wish to offer a defense do not have to attend the hearing, but if the court rules in the landlord's favor, he can issue an eviction notice right away. If both sides attend the hearing and the judge finds favor with the landlord, he will give the tenant 10 days to move.
Writ of Possession
The court will order Writ of Possession 10 days after it finds in favor of the Landlord if the tenant has not already moved. The tenant has the right to appeal within this timeframe. This legal decree orders the Sheriff to remove the tenant from the property. State law requires the Sheriff to perform the eviction within 30 days of issuance, but recommends it take place no more than 15 days later.