How to Evict a Tenant in Virginia

By Jessica McElrath

In Virginia, if a tenant breaches a term in the rental agreement, the landlord can terminate the tenancy. To force a tenant to move, the landlord must give a written notice, and if the tenant does not remedy the breach or move, the landlord may evict the tenant by filing an unlawful detainer action. Virginia law prohibits a landlord from taking possession of the rental by other means, such as turning off the electricity, gas or water or by preventing the tenant from entering the rental unit.

Serve the tenant with a written notice that states how the tenant breached the agreement and when the tenant must leave. If the tenant has materially breached the agreement and a remedy is possible, the notice must specify that the tenant has 21 days to fix the breach and if the tenant fails to do so, the tenancy will terminate 30 days after the tenant received the notice. If the breach is for the nonpayment of rent, the tenant has five days to pay rent or you can proceed with an eviction action. If the breach cannot be remedied, the tenancy terminates 30 days after receipt of the notice.

File a Summons for Unlawful Detainer action with a General District Court in the city or county where the property is located if you can't reach an agreement. This form initiates the eviction action. On the form, you must provide the amount of rent owed (if any), damages, attorney fees and interest. When you file the form, the clerk of the court will insert the date and time of the hearing on the form. You also can attach to the form the initial notice you served on the tenant, but you can wait until trial to present the notice to the judge.

Serve the form on the tenant. You can complete service of process by in-person delivery or by substituted service. If the tenant is not at his home, the process server (a sheriff or a person age 18 or older who is not a party to the case) can leave the summons with a family member age 16 or older that lives in the rental unit. The process server can post a copy of the summons on the front door of the rental if in-person delivery is not possible.

Appear in the appropriate court on the day and time of the hearing. At the hearing, you and the tenant will have the opportunity to present your case. The judge will make a decision based on the evidence and the applicable law. The judge will issue a default judgment in your favor if the tenant fails to appear at the hearing.

Obtain a writ of possession from the court if you prevail. This entitles you to obtain possession of the rental unit. Give the writ to the sheriff for enforcement. The sheriff will notify the tenant of the writ of possession. The sheriff may physically remove the tenant if the tenant still refuses to leave.

About the Author

Jessica McElrath has been a freelance writer since 2000. McElrath is the author of "The Everything John F. Kennedy Book" and "The Everything Martin Luther King Jr. Book." McElrath has a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of California at Berkeley and a Juris Doctor from Santa Clara University School of Law.

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